In Washington DC today, just 24 hours before the National Week of Making begins, a self-driving, 3d printed, electronically powered bus named Olli will start shutting passengers around the National Harbor.
The bus is a glimpse into the future of transportation, made possible by partnerships between technology and manufacturing companies. In this case, it was IBM's Watson technologies and a new approach to vehicle manufacturing pioneered by Nashville based, Local Motors.
Watson provides Olli's brain, allowing it to drive autonomously and safely around the Harbor, while Local Motors put Olli's body together with 3d printing and a crowdsourced design contest won by Edgar Sarmiento, a car design student in Italy.
Speaking about his company's recent push to transform the way cars are made, Local Motors' Chief Strategic Officer Justin Fishkin told The Verge that new approaches are being worked on and producing positive results by pulling in expertise from multiple designers and technology firms.
"First we proved that you could put a car on the road by committee, which nobody said was possible. Then we showed that you could crowdsource a military vehicle in two months and people thought we were a military vehicle company. We proved that digital manufacturing could be even faster. As Silicon Valley and Detroit converge, we sit nicely in the middle. It just so happens that this is as relevant to the current demand on the market as it could be."
Instead of manufacturing hundreds of thousands of cars, Local Motors claims to "sell before we make." This is an idea born out of faster production made possible by 3d printing, which is having effects on multiple industries as they adapt to new supply chain ideas.
"Two weeks ago we started building this vehicle, Fishkin told Tamara Warren at The Verge. "This is the world’s first autonomous on-demand shuttle. So basically you call it on an app and it picks you up just like Uber and it will talk to you."