From Emerging Technology at IMTS to Main Street, Olli is Rolling
By IMTS Team Member Kathy K. Webster, Exhibitions Content Manager – Correspondence at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and operates IMTS - The International Manufacturing Technology Show
IMTS emerging technology partner Local Motors (LM) Industries, known for 3D-printed mobility solutions, continues to make strides around the world.
LM’s Olli, the first co-created self-driving, 3D-printed, electric shuttle vehicle, which debuted at IMTS 2016 and operated at IMTS 2018, is now shuttling people in a 90-day pilot program on the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBMHH), in Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
A Fleet of Autonomous Vehicles
Visited by hundreds of people per day, JBMHH is comprised of dozens of buildings. A fleet of the self-driving vehicles, each known as “Olli,” is operating and making stops throughout the base, offering access to frequented buildings such as the library, dining hall, community facility, chapel, health clinic, and child development center – the military’s largest early development center.
The Official Launch Ceremony
On June 19, 2019, I was lucky enough to attend the JBMHH official Olli Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program Launch—a ceremony in full military style. With Arlington National Cemetery in the background, the launch began with the presentation of the Colors by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, followed by Sgt. First Class Tracy Labrecque-Pearson of the U.S. Army’s Band, singing the National Anthem.
Upper echelons of the military and U.S. government, as well as official state, county, and local representatives were among the audience.
Speakers at the Ceremony
- Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters
- Col. Kimberly A. Peeples, JBMHH Commander
- Richard G. Kidd, IV, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Strategic Integration
- Cathy McGhee, Director of Research and Innovation, the Office of the Virginia Secretary of Transportation
- Jay Rogers, Co-Founder and CEO, LM Industries
(Select any thumbnail above to view the image gallery)
A History of Innovation Firsts
Col. Peeples spoke about the origins of JBMHH, which dates to the Civil War, and its history of technology firsts in communication and military aviation:
- In 1908, the Wright Brothers demonstrated their airplane to the Army.
- In 1913, the first wireless communication tower was built and in 1915 transmitted the first transatlantic voice communication to the Eiffel Tower.
Olli Comes from Personal Pledge to Save Lives
The most powerful and heartfelt speech came from Jay Rogers, a former U.S. Marine, who shared his inspirational story. While serving in the Iraq War, he pledged to himself that when his tour ended, he would find a way to bring technology faster to the armed services to save lives. He named two soldiers with whom he worked closely and who died in Iraq; one of whom is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
From the many speeches, it’s clear the U.S. military wants to test and implement the latest technologies on the battlefield, but also to:
- Support soldiers combatting cyberwarfare from U.S. military bases
- Make military bases “smart” campuses to attract the best and brightest of Generation Z – the first generation that’s grown up with “smart” devices
- Offer affordable transportation to young service men and women travelling to bases, as many bases can’t be reached within the first and last mile of commuting without a personal vehicle
After the speeches, guests were invited to take a spin in Olli.
How’s the ride?
Stepping into the Olli was like stepping into a sleek, friendly looking, modern amusement ride. Seven of us were greeted by an Olli attendant—a real person monitoring the vehicle’s functions who can stop the vehicle immediately, if needed. Each of us took a seat furnished along all sides of the vehicle, except the side door. Thanks to its design, everyone had plenty of room, a window seat, and great views. Ollie is also designed for standing room.
The electric Olli traveled a smooth two-mile loop quietly along the paved main street at 10-25 mph. It stopped at stop signs and crosswalks. Vehicles passed in the opposite lane. It slowed when cyclists and pedestrians approached. The best part was chatting with the other passengers –all of us meeting for the first time.
More Than Just Transportation
Connecting people to people and places is what Olli is about. From military and university campuses to urban city centers, Olli is more than transportation. Riders can connect with each other, and even ask Olli for restaurant suggestions as it is equipped with IBM Watson technology.
Where else is Olli?
Olli shuttles are rolling in National Harbor, Md., Sacramento State’s campus, and a busy thoroughfare in Australia.