Concept of the Day: Local Motors/IBM Watson Olli

June 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

olliLots of column inches last week devoted to the Rolls-Royce Next 100 and Mini Next 100 concepts – interesting vehicles, of course – but this prototype took my fancy too. Olli is a 3D-printed autonomous-driving 12-seater shuttle bus, built by Local Motors, showcasing the IBM Watson IoT cloud-based cognitive computing/vehicle connectivity platform (including speech commands, speech-to-text communication, and 30 embedded sensors). Its design, developed in a crowdsourcing process, is by Edgar Sarmiento from Bogota, who will receive royalties as/when the vehicles go into production. Testing is to start in Washington DC with further trials to follow in Miami-Dade and Las Vegas; more Ollies are being made at the LM HQ in Phoenix. Olli is conceived as part of an ‘ecosystem’ including consumer smartphone apps, and can be shared, chartered and otherwise summoned as well as operating on pre-determined routes; it’s proposed for campus-type environment or developments but also to fill in the gaps in a city’s established transit infrastructure.

mini-vision-next-100Anyway, the BMW group reveals: the Mini Vision Next 100 is a nice little thing, showing some more of the BMW Group thinking: it’s designed to be an on-demand, shared-service EV, which will adapt to the driver’s tastes and preferences, provide a kind of concierge service, bring itself to the user (or take itself off to park), and remain fun to drive. Full details on its design here, but further notes on it are that it has a high recycled-material content inside, including cellulose-derived trim. The Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 is more of a flight of fantasy, a fully-autonomous (without even a steering wheel) proposal for the future ultimate luxury car, again electric-drive, with a virtual assistant.

Both cars – and the BMW Vision Next 100 (see previous post) – are the expression of BMW’s “six central hypotheses for individual mobility in the coming decades, based on key megatrends and future projections.” These six are: Mobility is becoming versatile (new forms and modes of mobility); Connectivity is becoming second nature; Mobility is becoming tailor-made; Technology is becoming human (including adaptivity, learning); Energy is becoming emission-free; Responsibility is becoming diverse (the CSR bit).

  • The Hubject project (integrating charging infrastructures across Europe in a single platform) is collaborating with mapping providers HERE to provide real-time information on charging point status – fully-automated updates across the network on occupancy, availability etc. More here.
  • Nissan is researching a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) powered by bioethanol, natural gas or multiple fuels: in this first automotive application of SOFC tech, the fuel reacts with oxygen in a reformer to create hydrogen, which then reacts in the fuel cell stack to produce electricity as per a conventional hydrogen fuel cell. The e-Bio Fuel Cell is said to give cruising ranges similar to those of petrol-powered cars alongside the driving experience of an EV. Sounds complex, and of course, there’s the issue of the source of the ‘bio’ ethanol, but Nissan’s pointing to region-specific applications where this can provide cleaner transportation within an existing fuel supply infrastructure, and an “ample power supply” to suit a wide range of needs, such as refrigerated deliveries. Some commenters are also suggesting that this could negate the need for hydrogen production/supply for fuel cell vehicles.
  • Latest Navigant Research report on urban transport: car-sharing, with a growing proportion of EVs on fleets, is a growth trend, boosted by an increase in one-way on-demand services and underpinned by network connectivity.  It expects almost all major manufacturers to be offering some kind of shared service by 2025, and customers are expected to use on-demand vehicles alongside ride-hailing services such as Uber. The shared fleets are also the key arenas for introducing autonomous-driving elements [i.e. for getting a car to come to you, or for parking itself when you’ve finished]. This is a familiar – and rather idealised – picture now, but more detail in this handy digest by Forbes.
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