Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will hold a launch for Olli, a level-four autonomous vehicle, Wednesday in the Spates parking lot. Photo by Catrina Francis

Olli launch set for Wednesday

On Wednesday, Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall will formally welcome Olli — a level-four autonomous vehicle, to the joint base. Those in the JBM-HH community, including service members, Families, retirees and civilians are invited to attend the 1 p.m. launch. Community members may have already seen Olli out and about, mapping on the joint base as part of phase one of a pilot program.

The launch will be the first time the entire joint base community has the opportunity to meet Olli and learn about the data collection research project that is being conducted.

The Olli launch is especially significant to JBM-HH as it is a joint celebration, highlighting Army and Marine collaboration. Marine Corps Installation Command and JBM-HH were selected as the winner of the National Capital Region Local Motors Olli Fleet Challenge in April. The research derived from the project may allow partners to unlock the future of autonomous vehicles on installations throughout the Department of Defense. JBM-HH has a rich historical legacy of innovative and technological firsts, and Olli marks another step in the installation’s history of innovation.

The event will be outdoors in the Spates parking lot on Fort Myer. Speaking will be JBM-HH Commander Col. Kimberly Peeples, Richard Kidd from Installations, Energy and Environment, Cathy McGhee from Virginia Department of Transportation, Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser deputy commanding general from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Jay Rogers CEO of Local Motors.

JBM-HH Community Relations Officer Leah Rubalcaba said the launch is especially significant because it is a community gathering, a recognition of the partnership and collaboration between the joint base, the DOD, and the outside community.

“All the subject-matter experts who have been part of this project will be there to talk about (Olli) and how JBM-HH came to be selected,” said Rubalcaba

Following the outdoor portion, visitors can engage with displays inside Spates ballroom from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and partner organizations from the project.

For members of the JBM-HH community, chances are there will not be an opportunity to ride Olli following the speakers. Due to limited seating capacity on Olli, each vehicle seats eight individuals, but access will be restricted to those who have received invitation to the launch. Following the launch, Olli will operate under a test-run basis for approximately 45-50 days. The test run will determine provide data for the project, including mapping the best route for the next phase.

Service members, Families and guests at JBM-HH will have the opportunity to interact with Olli after the test-run phase as riders of the new base transportation system. Todd Hutchings, the JBM-HH information management officer, said that the specific route and dates will be determined by data from the test-run phase. Ultimately, he said, the goal is to have a scheduled regular transportation route with stops on Fort Myer and Henderson Hall. Even after the test-run phase, data will continue to be evaluated and the route may continue to be modified as to best fit the joint base community’s needs.

Reflecting on the selection of JBM-HH, Jay Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors, said “Olli’s deployment at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall illustrates an unique use-case scenario for autonomous vehicles, and knowing that it will directly benefit men and women serving our country makes it even more special.

“It’s always exciting to see conceptual plans come to life, especially when those plans involve innovative technology, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Olli can teach others about the impact a self-driving vehicle can make at a military installation. The Olli Fleet Challenge gives us opportunities to introduce our autonomous shuttles to a variety of audiences and users across a diverse landscape of settings, and this collaboration with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is yet another example of how entities that serve the greater public can benefit from innovation in the private sector.”