IBM Watson is probably still best known for crushing it on Jeopardy. Now the same artificial intelligence software is being used for a new fleet of self-driving buses currently roaming the streets of Washington, D.C.
Developed by Local Motors, Olli is an electric, 3D printed transportation pod. It can carry up to 12 people and travel about 30 miles per charge at a speed of up t0 12 miles per hour. It uses a technology similar to Google’s self-driving cars to scan the environment and get around, but the company says there’s also a human monitoring Olli remotely just in case something goes wrong
What really makes Olli special is the way it integrates IBM Watson. Instead of typing out your destination you can simply say “Olli, take me downtown.” You can also ask for restaurant recommendations or check out historical sites if you’re a tourist. The bus even has an answer if you ask “Are we there yet?”
Olli is set to arrive in Miami and Las Vegas later this year. The company envisions a future where its self-driving cars serve as everything from private taxis to public transportation to shuttles at airports and college campuses. They could even open up entirely new product categories like a mobile gym or a taxi-cafe hybrid.
It all sounds pretty amazing, though we know self-driving technology still has a long way to go before it can really start to replace regular cars. Still, it’s tough not to get excited at the potential represented by Olli.