Meet Olli, an electric and autonomous minibus smart enough to take route requests.

When you think of Local Motors, the first thing that springs to mind is the Rally Fighter, an off-road coupe that came to life as a result of a crowdsourcing campaign. Now, the Arizona-based company has prepared an entirely different vehicle. Dubbed “Olli,” it’s a pure electric minibus that can transport up to 12 people by a following a pre-set route.

It doesn’t need a driver as the zero-emissions minibus is fitted with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology and comes packed with cameras and sensors to scan the road and do the driving on its own. However, the only Olli built so far is being operated in Maryland with human supervision in case something goes wrong. If it does, Local Motors mentions it will assume liability.

Between now and the end of the year, the company wants to have an Olli running in Las Vegas, two in Florida, and four in Denmark. While the aforementioned Rally Fighter was crowdsourced, the smart minibus was engineered in-house and it makes use of IBM’s cognitive system called “Watson.” That means people inside the minibus can actually talk to it and send route requests as well as make inquiries regarding its design and how it works. Moreover, Olli is smart enough to suggest restaurants based on the passengers’ destination.

In terms of power, the 3,300-lbs minibus is motivated by an electric motor delivering 40 hp (30 kilowatts) and 92 pound-feet (125 newton-meters) of torque. That's enough for a modest top speed of 12 mph (20 kph), so it’s going to take a while to get from point A to point B. The on-board battery pack has enough juice to cover up to 32.4 miles (50 kilometers) which means it requires frequent recharging, but for university campuses and similar locations it should be fine.

Source: Local Motors

Gallery: Local Motors reveals Olli, self-driving transport EV that thinks cognitively