A Great Big City

Could Olli Electric Minibuses Survive Manhattan Traffic?

Olli
Olli via Local Motors

Would you catch a ride in this jolly little bus?

New Yorkers get around via one of the biggest subway systems in the world, are experts at hailing yellow cabs, and will walk to the grocery store whether rain or shine, but how will the city adjust as self-driving vehicles hit the streets?

We've already let Pittsburg steal our thunder by becoming the test city for self-driving Uber cars, but as technology advances, NYC's streets will likely be transformed by a variety of new transportation experiments. The Olli bus is one possibility, and a limited number are already being tested in more controlled situations than Friday night Midtown traffic.

The Olli bus is meant to be self-driving, similar to Google's previous small car, but has the unique benefit of a human supervising the car and the passengers, to ensure that the vehicle makes appropriate driving decisions and that the human cargo arrives intact. Unlike many self-driving test vehicles, the Olli is built with public transportation in mind and seats 12 people, more like an electric trolley or small city bus than something like Toyota's personal transport tron-pods.

Olli could be a good fit for New York, combining the familiarity of app-driven ride sharing with the ubiquity of public transportation, and its electric drivetrain could certainly clear the air for those of us still strolling the city's sidewalks.

If cruising around in an Olli seems like a distant dream, you can live the autonomous life today in your own Tesla Model S or Model X and use its autopilot feature for the majority of highway and stop-and-go driving:

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