A driverless bus called Olli is currently being tested in the Schöneberg neighbourhood of Berlin.

Supported by German transport provider Deutsche Bahn, the prototype bus is built by the American company Local Motors. This innovative company has also produced other forward-thinking transport options including the world’s first 3D-printed car and the Rally Fighter, a cross between an off-road vehicle with the luxuries of a car used for commuting.

Olli is described as a ‘friendly neighbourhood mobility option’. The environmentally-friendly electric bus is small, with space for just 12 passengers, and reaches speeds of up to 20km per hour. The idea is to revolutionise shared transportation options around the world. Olli was designed by Colombian-Italian Edgar Andrés Sarmiento Garcia, an industrial designer who won the Local Motors Urban Mobility Challenge in 2015.

Olli designer Edgar Andrés Sarmiento Garcia

Olli designer Edgar Andrés Sarmiento Garcia. Photo: Jason Dixson Photography

If the bus passes the testing phase to go into operation in Berlin, passengers will be able to book a seat via an app. “As long as you have a smartphone, wherever you are is a bus stop,” say Local Motors. “And wherever you’re going is the next stop.” Olli will even be programmed to make small talk and suggest good places to eat in the local area.

In terms of the tech, Olli buses have Lidar and optical cameras to allow it to ‘see’ in all directions. Self-driving software allows Olli to make decisions faster than humans, helping keep passengers safe.

“As a shared vehicle at the cutting edge of new technology, Olli will make the lives of users, pedestrians and passersby more delightful every day. Smart vehicles have an opportunity to ease the burden of transportation, and Olli is just such a vehicle.”  – Jay Rogers, CEO, Local Motors

The plan is to produce 50 Olli buses during 2017 for the city of Berlin if the trial goes well, while Local Motors foresees hundreds of autonomous vehicles operating in the city in just a few years’ time. During the trial, Olli is learning to identify street hazards, including pedestrians and Berlin’s many cyclists. The self-driving bus will also learn to understand road markings.

Olli driverless bus by Local Motors

Olli driverless bus by Local Motors

It’s no surprise that such an innovative transport option is coming to Berlin, one of Europe’s start-up and innovation centres. We’re looking forward to hailing an ‘Olli’ on our next Berlin trip.

Website: Local Motors

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