In National Harbor, an autonomous shuttle named Olli has started making it's rounds, without a driver at the wheel. In fact, the vehicle doesn't even have a steering wheel.
The shuttle is currently "invite-only," but later this summer it will be opened up to the public. The shuttle is also on it's way to Joint base Myers-Henderson Hall for a 90 day pilot program."The future is here," said David Woessner, a vice president of LM Industries, the parent company of Local Motors, which manufactures Olli.
As of now, the shuttle is only driving on a 1.3 mile route through the city, under the watchful eye of a "safety steward." Eventually, the plan is to extend the route through the entire city, and open it up to the public. Woessner said these rides will be free, once available for the public.
The shuttles, which can carry in between 8 and 12 people, is partially made through 3D printing, which the company called historic in a 2017 press release. The shuttle is far from a speed demon, set at just 12 miles per hour, although it has a max speed of 25 miles per hour.
Woessner said the shuttle can fill a "transportation gap" in the city.
"National Harbor is relatively inaccessible from a mobility perspective," he said. "Unless you own a personal vehicle. There's no mass transit. There's no Metro station that comes into National Harbor directly."
Woessner said there's also a "safety argument" for why these shuttles should be used. He said there is an average of 40,000 traffic deaths on U.S. roads each year, of which the vast majority, 94%, are due to human error.
"Robots in certain ways can drive better than humans," he said. "Because they don't have distractions."
While Olli is relatively new to our area, they are already in use in a limited capacity in sections of Australia and Sacramento, CA.