IBM Watson’s new self-driving car is the talk of the town

Imagine this: You don’t feel like driving, so you decide to hitch a ride on the local mini-bus. During the drive you start to get a little hungry, so you ask the driver for dining recommendations. A pleasant voice begins to converse with you, letting you know about local restaurants and traffic. Sounds normal right? Well not quite: On IBM’s new mini-bus, Olli, there is no driver. Equipped with a Watson super-computer, Olli, IBM’s new autonomous electric mini-bus, is capable of conversing with passengers on a variety of topics, a feature which could play an important role in increasing passenger trust of self-driving vehicles.

Currently, according to an American Automobile Association survey, 75 percent of U.S drivers are afraid to ride in self-driving cars. FOlliurther, just 1 in 5 U.S drivers say they would trust a self-driving car to safely drive them.

Naturally, many people feel anxious about surrendering the wheel to a computer, but Olli could fix that problem with its ability to carry on friendly conversation with passengers. Passengers can ask Olli about the car’s features, about traffic, and challenge the car’s decisions. If a passenger wants to know why the car took a certain turn, stopped at a certain spot, or is driving in a particular way, he or she can press a button to speak directly to Olli.

Quite the conversationalist, Olli can talk about more than just traffic and car features, and can even deliver local restaurant information and recommendations. By allowing passengers to question Olli about its choices, among other features, IBM aims to make the driving experience more transparent, and comfortable for users. Olli is currently on the road in Washington D.C., and is slated to debut in Las Vegas later this year. Although no concrete plans have been announced for Olli’s implementation in other cities, one thing’s for sure — Olli will be the talk of whatever town it operates in.

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