3D-Printed Olli Pulls into University of Buffalo’s Autonomous Vehicle Program
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on August 10, 2018 |

Local Motors, a subsidiary of the recently established LM Industries, has officially delivered Olli, its 3D-printed electric vehicle (EV), to the University of Buffalo (UB), where it will become a part of the school’s program for studying autonomous and connected vehicles. The self-driving electric shuttle was unveiled at the Fourth Annual Symposium on Transportation Informatics at UB, where attendees converged to advance the state of transportation technology.

Made with many 3D-printed parts, Olli, the self-driving shuttle, arrives at UB. (Image courtesy of Douglas Levere and University at Buffalo.)
Made with many 3D-printed parts, Olli, the self-driving shuttle, arrives at UB. (Image courtesy of Douglas Levere and University at Buffalo.) 

UB received a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant in 2016 for research into self-driving and connected cars, which the school matched with $500,000. The funds were meant to boost UB’s already extensive research into transportation and computer science and engineering. This includes a project that connects driving, traffic and wireless networking simulators for the purposes of testing connected and autonomous vehicles. 

Now, with the help of grants from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York's Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), UB has purchased Olli. NYSERDA and NYSDOT are co-managing the Olli Project in an effort to support a New York City goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, which can be contrasted to clean energy goals like those of Denver, which aims for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

The driving simulator in UB's Motion Simulation Laboratory. (Image courtesy of Douglas Levere and UB.)
The driving simulator in UB's Motion Simulation Laboratory. (Image courtesy of Douglas Levere and UB.)

Olli will feel at home in UB, where it will bring its own unique features to the table. The shuttle is made of a large number of 3D-printed components, including the fenders and much of the interior, fabricating using Big Area Additive Manufacturing systems from Cincinnati Incorporated. 

Olli is capable of self-driving using Paravan’s driving system, Best Mile’s route optimization platform, and other pieces of hardware and software from Local Motors partners. The shuttle has 30 sensors embedded throughout, LiDAR and optical cameras. IBM Watson gives the shuttle the ability to answer questions from the vehicle’s passengers.

For the time being, UB will not be transporting students in the shuttle, but will be researching the feasibility and benefits of doing so, as the school studies policy, safety, reliability and other issues related to autonomous vehicles. 

Since its venture into 3D printing began, Local Motors has moved away from consumer-focused 3D-printed cars and toward electric city transit vehicles. This may not be the first delivery of an Olli to a customer for testing, but, it is the first purchase for potential commercial usage, according to Local Motors. If fleets of Ollis are determined by schools like UB to be useful in local, clean transportation, it may be possible that the Olli program could have a small impact on the enormous problem that is catastrophic climate change. 

To learn more about Olli, visit the product page.

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