Olli is helping autonomous vehicles become more accessible - Technical.ly DC

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Oct. 9, 2017 11:58 am

Olli is helping autonomous vehicles become more accessible

The creators of the autonomous shuttle started a design challenge to make sure everyone can get a ride.

Local Motors cofounder John B. Rogers, Jr. with Olli.

(Photo courtesy Local Motors)

Local Motors, which has a plant in National Harbor, Md., is collaborating with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and IBM to run a yearlong campaign to make autonomous shuttle Olli more accessible. The effort made an appearance at a DecodeDC event last week.

Olli has already gained a lot of attention since it started traversing the streets of D.C. in 2016 just for being a self-driving, 3D printed vehicle.

Since the beginning of this year, Local Motors has been collaborating with designers online and through hackathons to be sure that the next version of Olli will be accessible for those with physical or cognitive disabilities. The goal is to debut the technology at the CES tradeshow in 2018.

When the #AccessibleOlli effort launched, the groups announced a series of nine hackathons in different cities across the U.S. Local Motors and its other collaborators also broadened the scope of the crowdsourcing project by setting up an active online message board for the project that challenged users to compete to come up with the best plans for the new version of Olli.

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The winners for this Autonomous for All of Us contest were announced on September 21. The best overall entry was a concept that allowed users to request the features that they needed from Olli via a smartphone app, then used AI to rearrange the features in the bus as it was en-route to pick passengers up, according to the competition’s website.

The project comes out of a study done by the CTA that states that over a billion people in the world today are already living with some sort of a disability, and by 2050 people over 60 will account for almost a quarter of the world population.  IBM is also contributing to this project by integrating the technology that it uses for Watson Internet of Things into the #AccessibleOlli design. The demand for accessible transportation is already here, and will only continue to grow in the future. Initiatives like Accessible Olli are a step toward trying to meet that demand.

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Grace Ballenger

Grace Ballenger is a recent graduate from Wellesley College who has written for Slate and The Tempest. She enjoys writing about technology, language and culture.

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