By Daniel Rothberg, Las Vegas Sun: http://lasvegassun.com/news/2016/jun/16/self-driving-minibus-to-hit-streets-in-las-vegas/.
Later this year, Arizona-based Local Motors expects to deploy an autonomous minibus in Las Vegas through a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, state officials announced today.
Local Motors, a startup known for manufacturing 3D-printed vehicles, plans to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the new vehicle, known as Olli, at UNLV and eventually deploy a fleet in the city of Las Vegas.
Olli, an autonomous minibus that seats 12, could be used for public transportation or to take passengers on short rides.
Before the vehicles appear in Las Vegas, they will debut in Washington, D.C., through the summer. Miami-Dade County also will run a pilot program for the vehicles.
“Self-driving vehicles are part of a portfolio of new transportation options which are changing our approach to transit and travel,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a news release. “I’m proud to see so many local government partners share in this exciting announcement and look forward to the advancement of this partnership with Local Motors.”
The collaboration is the first project for the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility, an economic development program formed in February through a grant to UNLV.
Groups involved with the pilot program have outlined several goals for the project. They range from demonstrating capabilities of the vehicles to determining whether they would be a suitable transit option for the city.
The groups behind the project include the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and the state’s transportation department.
While Local Motors is not headquartered here, it has strong Las Vegas ties, including a small factory in downtown Las Vegas and an existing partnership with UNLV.
It has also talked about working with MGM Resorts International to meet some of its transportation needs. The company has attracted broad interest in the past, with a venture arm for aerospace and defense giant Airbus Group investing in the company earlier this year.
IBM’s artificial intelligence technology, IBM Watson, is providing the computing framework for the Olli minibus, making it the first self-driving vehicle to use the IBM technology.
“Olli offers a smart, safe and sustainable transportation solution that is long overdue,” Local Motors CEO and co-founder John Rogers said in the news release. “I’m thrilled to see what our open community will do with the latest in advanced vehicle technology.”
State officials have long seen autonomous vehicle testing and development as an economic opportunity for the state.
In 2011, Nevada, at Google’s request, became the first state to legalize road testing for autonomous vehicles. Since then, several other jurisdictions have followed its lead.