I finally took a ride on Olli – the Harbor’s self-driving, electric vehicle. Brought to life a few years ago by Local Motors, this little vehicle is finally coming to life here at National Harbor. It has been being tested in other urban areas as well and is still a work in progress. I have been following Olli’s evolution on a semi-daily basis ever since one of its stops was implemented in front of One National Harbor where I live. I have been curious as to what exactly its purpose/function is supposed to be in the Harbor. I polled the people in a Facebook group that is for National Harbor residents only and many of us had the same perceptions….many which are misconceptions about Olli. I hope you all find the following enlightening.
What gender is Olli?
You know how you name a boat or a car and it is most usually a female name? I asked Giovanni Medina, the Safety Steward (more about this in a later question) on board during my ride what Local Motors feeling was and he said, “For the most, everyone has referred to Olli as a ‘she’.” I can go along with that.
Does Olli really drive herself?
Yes and No. It is interesting how the virtual tracking system is laid out in the Harbor and there are an abundance of safety features built in to Olli’s system. She did 98% of the driving while I was on board but Giovanni did intervene a couple of times when a woman stepped out of her car next to where Olli was traveling and made sure things were fine. Otherwise, she stopped at the 4 ways and paid attention to the pedestrian and vehicle traffic, etc. Basically, at this point in time, Olli still has some human help.
Where does Olli stop?
The stops were designed with availability of a place to pull off the side of the street in mind so there are only three stops at this time. One in front of One National Harbor condos on Potomac Passage, one next to Local Motors and the turn out on Mariner Passage behind the AC Hotel. A stop at the Gaylord Resort was in the initial plan but that has not come to fruition. In the near future, they hope to have permission to operate on the state roads so passengers can use Olli to go to the MGM Grand and the Tanger Outlets. That involves dealing with state government so….
What does it cost?
Nothing at this point and it will most likely remain free until more options are available for stops. They do ask that you register online at localmotors.com. This means you need access to a smart phone since a barcode comes up for the Steward to scan. It is a good way for them to gather information about the people who are boarding the shuttle. They also encourage passengers to take selfies inside Olli and send them to their hashtag. Right now you can enter your pic in a drawing for an Amazon gift card.
Is it worth riding to get around the Harbor?
This is a totally subjective question. My opinion and that of a couple fellow harbor residents is that, at this point, it is more of a novelty than a viable mode of transportation to a destination. Since it only has three stops and none of them is the Gaylord or the Waterfront, it really isn’t a convenient way of getting around to the restaurants and shops. When they expand stops to the MGM and Tanger, it will make it a viable mode. It is, however, a fun way to educate yourself and your friends and family about where transportation in the future is headed. I am looking forward to taking my friends and family for a ride….
I want to wish all of you who have been reading this section of the OTC since the Harbor column appeared 10 years ago a very Happy New Year! As we welcome a new decade, I wish you all the best of health and happiness!
About Local Motors
“Local Motors by LM Industries Group Inc. is a ground mobility company focused on shaping the future for the better. Founded in 2007 with a belief in open collaboration and co-creation, Local Motors began low volume vehicle manufacturing of open-source designs using multiple microfactories. Since inception, Local Motors has debuted no less than three world firsts; the world’s first co-created vehicle, the world’s first 3D-printed car and the world’s first co-created, self-driving, electric vehicle, Olli. We believe that Olli is the answer to a sustainable, accessible transportation solution for all.
Olli, which employs a responsive cognitive function, is an environmentally-friendly vehicle designed to change the future of mobility. A safe and efficient shuttle, Olli is a viable and sustainable transportation option for cities, companies, hospitals, campuses, stadiums, entertainment districts and any other location where people need to move from one place to another.” – localmotion.com