LAKE WALES, Fla. — Local Motors (Phoenix, Arizona) has finally found its niche at the MEMS Executive Congress 2016 (Scottsdale, Arizona). It had already demonstrated that it could 3-D print vehicles in a single day. Since then Local Motors has been a solution looking for a problem. Now it has hit paydirt, with the help of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) it as finally found the mother-load — a driverless mini-bus that can be called on demand from a smartphone like a taxi. The new concept is already being deployed in Las Vegas, Dade County, Copenhagen and several other regions around the world.
Local Motors business model is as unique and new as its ability to 3-D print complete cars (except the drive train). It holds contests that freelance vehicle designers enter — over 400 submitted the Olli autonomous bus designs — then picks the best one. The designer gets a cash-up-front payment commensurate with the going prices, but in addition receives royalties for every vehicle sold — providing the motivation to enter the contests.
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“Our first car was the Strati,” said Local Motors general manager Phillip Rayer, keynote speaker at the MEMS Executive Congress. “A conventional car for human drivers that took but a single day to 3D-print and just three more days to install the motor and drive train.”
Local Motors still offers this service to anyone using its own plans or plans the customers supply themselves. The Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA), BMW and Peterbilt have taken advantage of the service. Also AirBus has funded the co-creation (what Local Motors calls its separation of design and manufacturing) of a cargo drone, suitable for package delivery to residential addresses as well as medical delivers to soldiers in the field. The service, however, has not taken off in the direct-to-consumer model.
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