After introducing the world’s first-ever 3D-printed car, Arizona-based startup Local Motors is pushing a new mode of public transport system onto the US roads – 3D-printed buses that are self-driving, and re-usable.
The 12-seater mini-bus, called Olli, can be booked through mobile apps. More interestingly, riders can customize Olli ride to their requirements. Once done, they can have the mini-bus in around 10 hours’ time; the time required to 3D-print and assemble the vehicles from company’s micro-factories.
Unlike companies like Google who are behind autonomous rides for years, Local Motors’ Olli is ready to be hooked up onto the roads, and the manufacturers say the regulations don’t impose any restriction to this 3D-printed mini-bus for making its debut run.
The technology used in Olli is IBM’s supercomputer platform called Watson. Olli also becomes the first to adopt the car-focused cognitive learning platform from IBM.
According to the manufacturers, the technology is more than ready for its commercial performance, and the real complexity now lies in ‘fielding’ Olli, i.e. to roll out the vehicle in a matter of hours to the riders. The entire process of 3D-printing the mini-bus parts gets completed in 10 hours, and it takes another one hour for its assembling.
Micro-factories for the production of Olli are currently setup in Washington, and that’s where Olli will be making its debut. The introductory event took place in National Harbor, Washington D.C on Thursday. Trial runs are expected to be carried out in the months ahead, and it will be followed by the expansion to cities like Las Vegas and Miami.
The company is also eyeing global expansion to cities like Berlin, Copenhagen and Canberra. Local Motors John Rogers shares the view that over 100 micro-factories will have to be setup around the globe for the production of Olli mini-bus.
The company is also planning to have its 3D-printed EV LM3D (Strati) brought into the market before the end of this year.