Local Motor’s Self-Driving Vehicle Taps the Power of IBM Watson

There’s been a lot of talk around self-driving cars and Local Motors, a leading vehicle technology integrator and creator of the world’s first 3D-printed cars, introduced the first self-driving vehicle to integrate the advanced cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson. Local Motors is a technology company that designs, builds and sells vehicles. The Local Motors platform is a combination of a global co-creation with local micro-manufacturing to bring hardware innovations quickly to market. Local Motors in National Harbor, Maryland is a public place where co-creation is the focus for advancement of vehicle technologies.

What can you see if you visit the Maryland facility? On display are 3D-printed cars and a large-scale 3D printer. There visitors can have an interactive co-creative experience that showcases what the future of 3D printing, sustainability, autonomous technology will be. Visitors can get involved with Local Motors engineers and the company’s co-creation community.

The automobile has a name and it’s called “Olli.” At its debut it was carrying the CEO of Local Motors and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr. and vehicle designer Edgar Sarmiento. The vehicle took them from the Local Motors co-creation community into the new facility. While there are already self-driving action in Washington, DC, soon there will be vehicles on the road in Miami-Dade County and Las Vegas. The cars can carry up to 12 people. More details can be seen in this video:

Source: IBM Watson

What’s the Big Innovation? The electric vehicle is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology, including IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) for Automotive. Passengers can interact conversationally with Olli and ask about:

  • Destinations, for example, “Olli, can you take me downtown?”
  • Specific vehicle functions  like: “How does this feature work?”
  • Time related questions like, “Are we there yet?”

In addition, Olli can make recommendations on local restaurants or historical sites. Olli is essentially designed to deliver interesting, entertaining, intuitive and interactive experiences for riders. How is IBM Watson is being used to improve the passenger experience? It is enabling the natural interaction with the vehicle via the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson IoT to analyze and learn from high volumes of transportation data produced by more than 30 sensors embedded throughout the vehicle. As the vehicle gets used, Local Motors plans to install more sensors and adjust them continuously as passenger needs and local preferences are identified.

The platform leverages four Watson developer APIs:

  • Speech to Text
  • Natural Language Classifier
  • Entity Extraction and
  • Text to Speech.

Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson Internet of Things, Commerce & Education commented that, “Cognitive computing provides incredible opportunities to create unparalleled, customized experiences for customers, taking advantage of the massive amounts of streaming data from all devices connected to the Internet of Things, including an automobile’s myriad sensors and systems. IBM is excited to work with Local Motors to infuse IBM Watson IoT cognitive computing capabilities into Olli, exploring the art of what’s possible in a world of self-driving vehicles and providing a unique, personalized experience for every passenger while helping to revolutionize the future of transportation for years to come.”

Having worked in the automotive industry in Detroit, it’s exciting to see new develops like this. It’s also exciting to see the application of cognitive computing in a real world situation. Using it for something like empowering self-driving vehicle is probably the best way to advance not only the self-driving cars but also the ability to deploy cognitive computing in a real world application. This looks to be the start of something very interesting that other brands in this space should be taking note of. Competition in the automotive is rapidly changing, from the provision of Cars-As-A-Service, with GM investing $500M in Lyft to cars that drive themselves. The Future is here.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering customer-facing applications that create amazing customer experiences.

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