With all the hype around Tesla FSD, Waymo, Cruise, comma.ai, Baidu, AutoX, etc., it’s often forgotten that little Olli is out there. Or, at least, I forget about Olli. I’ve actually experienced Olli in person, something I can’t say for any of the others. True — Olli isn’t a free-roaming autonomous vehicle that can go from any odd spot to any other odd spot, not even in the same region. But it can — and does — go from point A to point B autonomously, and when that’s what’s needed many times a day, it’s performing a useful service.
In Knox County, Olli is currently in the midst of testing on Valley Vista Road, with a safety attendant. Olli’s parent company, Local Motors, is based nearby in Knoxville, Tennessee, but don’t that to mean Olli doesn’t get around. The one I checked out was in Abu Dhabi, the UAE. “Since its inception, Local Motors has debuted no less than three world firsts; the world’s first co-created vehicle, the world’s first 3D-printed car, and the world’s first co-created, autonomous, electric vehicle, Olli,” the company writes. “We believe that Olli is the answer to a sustainable, accessible mobility solution for all.”
“Local Motors is one of the companies helping solidify Knox County’s position as an innovation hub. Autonomous vehicles are the future,” Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs noted. “We are thrilled that Knox County is at the forefront of witnessing and helping this type of innovation move forward.”
Olli uses the IBM Watson supercomputer. It seems we first wrote about it back in June 2016 and then wrote about Vice President of the IBM Watson Internet of Things Platform, Bret Greenstein, talking autonomous vehicles and the IBM Watson in October 2016. “Watson solves that with a variety of capabilities and even the ability to learn your patterns and preferences,” Autoblog wrote at the time. “Greenstein said that in an autonomous bus application, Watson can ask you what music you’d like to select, or recognize when you’re probably going to work and preload those driving instructions. He even suggested it could warn you if an ex you don’t want to see is planning on getting on that bus.”
In April 2018, we wrote about Local Motors and electric drive developer Protean Electric partnering to develop self-driving electric vehicles. I’m not sure where that went, but it’s good to get a bit of news about Olli and Local Motors again. That said, in the past 5 years, there hasn’t been tremendous deployment/use of the vehicle. “The mileage in Knox County will add to the thousands of miles Olli has already traveled autonomously,” the company writes to close out the news release about the latest development. I guess that is supposed to be a boast, but thousands instead of millions or billions is not a good look in 2021.