Local Motors debuts new accessibility features in partnership with SCVTA

May 13, 2021
The new features on the autonomous shuttle will help veterans move around the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto.

Olli, Local Motors’ autonomous shuttle, has new accessibility features that will help veterans move around the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.  

As a part of a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) pilot project, partners led test runs at a San Jose location, demonstrating the capabilities of the new automated, ADA-compliant ramp. 

Kat Dransfield, Local Motors’ vice president of product and digital platform strategy, said, “We’re proud to be developing these new Olli features to simplify mobility for patients at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto. Real-world feedback from veterans will help us continue making Olli the most accessible autonomous shuttle available today.” 

With help from Prospect Silicon Valley, Local Motors says this project is the nation’s first autonomous vehicle project to focus entirely on accessibility. The project is anchored by the development of three new features: a Smarter AI™ Gateway that applies precision AI models to Olli’s internal and external cameras to notify Olli when a passenger is using a mobility device, an automated wheelchair ramp, developed by BraunAbility and a ride-hailing application that allows mobility device users to customize their ride preferences, built by Liftango. 

“The Valley Transportation Authority prioritizes equity in the transit services we provide. This automated shuttle can be a game-changer to protect the independence of those who cannot use fixed-route transit service,” said Gary Miskell, VTA chief innovation officer. “Not only will riders experience the benefits of accessible transportation, but we hope more transit agencies will begin to prioritize and adopt similar solutions.”  

The project’s next phase will have passengers interact with these accessibility features at the VA Hospital campus in Palo Alto, operating in mixed traffic from the VA hospital complex to the Palo Alto and Mountain View transit centers. The multi-stage Accessible Automated Vehicle Project was funded using a grant facilitated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Other partners in this venture are Robotic Research and Mineta Transportation Institute.