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posted 26 July 2016 at 13:29:15

Forget Uber and private mini cabs. Olli the autonomous shuttle bus may well be the future of transport on demand. The 12-seater shuttle is the brainchild of American automotive firm Local Motors, which built the electric bus and developed software that allows it to navigate its surroundings on its own.

The company then worked with IBM to create an app that would allow users to summon Olli via their mobile phones and incorporated IBM's Watson car-focused cognitive learning platform. This features more than 30 sensors and streams of data from IBM's cloud that allow passengers to have 'conversations' with Olli while on board – as you might with a human driver (if you so choose!).

The bulk of Olli's components were 3D printed in an astonishing 10 hours and assembly was complete in just one hour. Its inventors believe that this makes large-scale printing in towns and cities perfectly feasible, enabling fleets of Ollis to be produced in next to no time. Olli currently travels at 18 miles per hour and its charge can last 60 hours. While this rules out motorway driving, it could be ideal for shopping centres, university campuses, village and small town transportation needs.

Co-founder John Rodgers reports that there is a long list of clients in 50 countries interested in Olli and that driving trials will commence soon in Washington D.C. and Maryland, USA. 'Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue. The technology has been ready – fielding it is what has been hard,' says Rodgers, who envisions countless micro-factories manufacturing Olli shuttles around the world. The vehicle is apparently ready to go as soon as self-driving regulations allow it.

Image: © Local Motors (