Local Motors is an innovative company whose business strategy includes 3D-printed vehicles and crowd-sourced designs, and whose lineup includes the “Olli” 12-person shuttle vehicle. At CES 2017, a partnership was announced between Local Motors, IBM and CTA Foundation, with the collaborative goal of overhauling Olli’s on-board experience with thoughtful re-designs and empowering new technologies, aimed at making Olli the “world’s most accessible self-driving vehicle”. CES attendees were promised a follow-up demonstration, showcasing these exciting changes, to be delivered at CES the following year.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people live with some form of disability. The United Nations reports that the number of people aged 60+ is projected to grow by 56% worldwide by 2030. The world is experiencing a “smart tech” explosion, with over 6.4 billion connected devices worldwide, and projections for surpassing 10 million self-driving vehicles on American roads in the next 5 years. Many aging and disabled people rely on safe, reliable transportation for independence and greater quality of life. It is essential that emerging modes of transportation are accessible and inclusive of this population.
What I Did
I co-hosted a series of workshops exploring the transportation challenges being faced by aging and disabled people. This allowed for identification of common themes and the most pressing transportation issues, for which existing solutions did not exist. I then partnered with students from MIT's AT / Assistive Technology Hackathon for some prototypes that partners, like Kintrans and What3Words, could use to pinpoint our minimum viable products (MVP). #AccessibleOlli was unveiled at CES 2018, where I served as greeter & host for our booth, a simulated "Olli Stop" bus stop.
As promised, our team returned to CES 2018 with compelling demonstrations showcasing 4 examples of ways new technologies can and should be used to create accessible transit experiences. Our #AccessibleOlli booth was extremely well attended, doubling booth attendance and social media numbers from the year before. Attendees enjoying the “Olli Experience” firsthand included senior automotive executives, international transportation leaders, and Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder.