Mobility solutions company LM Industries completes first round of global autonomous fleet competition

Winners in Sacramento and Phoenix announced; D.C. and cities worldwide soon to follow

By Skylar Griego

Two institutions in Arizona and California have won a chance to utilize a fleet of electric, autonomous shuttles to transport people around their respective campuses.

Local Motors by LM Industries Group, Inc., a mobility solutions company, launched a global autonomous fleet competition — the Olli Fleet Challenge — in September 2018.

According to a press release from Local Motors, the Olli Fleet Challenge “invites municipalities, campuses and designated districts to propose a three-month, local use for Olli, the world’s first co-created, self-driving, low-speed electric shuttle.”

The partially 3D-printed shuttle is the first of its kind — an autonomous, electric shuttle with obstacle avoidance capabilities. In other words, it’s got sensors to not only stop if an object obstructs its path, but also look for and take a new safe path around the object blocking it.

Brittany Stotler, vice president of marketing at Local Motors, said the Olli Fleet Challenge was inspired as a natural extension of the intents behind the design and build of the Olli: adaptability and customization. The goal of the challenge is to collaborate with communities to see how autonomous vehicles will integrate with and successfully serve cities, she said.

“Olli is an eight-person, low-speed, autonomous electric shuttle, so it’s perfect for things like urban centers in cities, business campuses, hospitals or other large spaces where people need to get around,” she said. “We wanted to hear how the people who live and work in these places every day would use something like Olli, so we decided to partner directly with them and see what they came up with.”

Entrants submitted proposals based on the information requested in the Olli Fleet Challenge Guidebook provided by Local Motors via Launch Forth, a mobility solutions community created by Local Motors. The proposed plans outline major points like deployment, storage and charging, routes and ridership, and how these would be addressed over a three-month usage of an Olli fleet.

The first “round” of the Olli Fleet Challenge was opened to entrants in Sacramento and Phoenix. On December 12, Local Motors announced the winner from each city: East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), Arizona’s first joint technical education district, in Phoenix and Sacramento State University, California’s capital university.

“Sacramento and Phoenix are leaders in autonomous innovation and exemplary founding cities for the Olli Fleet Challenge. [EVIT and Sacramento State] will receive a pod of Olli shuttles on a free lease for three months,” Stotler said. “Once the deployment has completed, we will review the data, uses and activity, offering insights to them as to how they can best utilize Olli moving forward to benefit their campus. LM Industries gets to learn from the cities’ use plans, and Sacramento and Phoenix receive autonomous shuttles to put their plans into action.”

Local Motors CEO and co-founder Jay Rogers said Olli’s deployment in places like Adelaide and University at Buffalo have already transformed the way people think about transportation. The shuttle is showing that autonomous vehicles can be safe, sustainable and practical, he said.

“It’s exciting to know that with each new challenge a new audience will be exposed to self-driving technology,” Rogers said. “And, we look forward to the insights that will come from each deployment as the ever-changing industry of autonomous vehicles continues to evolve.”

Local Motors officials will begin mapping the winning locations within weeks and expects to deploy fleets for public use by the end of January, according to the press release announcing the winners on December 12.

The second fleet challenge in the U.S. launched in Washington, D.C. after the winners of the first round were announced. It will be open to entries from the greater D.C. area through February 6, 2019. Local Motors will also soon launch in Australia and the Nordics, with additional challenges to follow elsewhere in the coming months.

“There will be new cities announced worldwide soon so please stay tuned and we’ll share the upcoming news,” Stotler said.

Local Motors is also accepting requests to bring the Olli Fleet Challenge to your home city on its website.

Stotler said the team at Local Motors sees the Olli Fleet Challenge as the best opportunity for local governments or private entities around the world to envision, create and test the future of mobility in their own communities.

“[If they win], they get a fleet of autonomous shuttles running in their backyards. How cool is that,” she said. “It will be a great benefit for local communities because they can immediately put their use plan into action and give the city valuable insights on the future of transportation, urban development and autonomy in their neighborhoods.”