Voyage, a Silicon Valley-based startup company and The Villages, known as “Florida’s friendliest active adult community,” have announced an exciting new pilot project, resulting in the launch of an autonomous – or self-driving – taxi service available to residents within the 40 square mile bounds of the community.
According to the Voyage website, “the Voyage Pilot Program involves a select group of residents who will participate in testing a self-driving taxi service within The Villages. Accepted residents will be able to utilize a free self-driving taxi, and in exchange will be asked to give frequent feedback and guidance to improve the service.” Upon rollout, this autonomous taxi service will become the largest deployment of self-driving cars in the world, and according to Voyage offers a “new kind of low-cost transportation” for seniors.
Autonomous Cars Serving Residents at The Villages
A collaboration between a multimillion-dollar tech company and the largest retirement community in North America may seem like a strange partnership. The Verge speculates, “it’s an interesting twist, especially when you consider that recent surveys indicate older Americans feel less comfortable with high levels of automated driving compared to their younger cohorts.”
However, this revolutionary collaboration actually makes perfect sense. Voyage has collaborated with senior living communities in the past – like that of The Villages in San Jose, California – and the state of Florida recently passed legislation allowing for fully autonomous vehicles to drive on Florida roads, opening the door for companies such as Voyage to break into the market.
Finally, many seniors are forced to surrender their driver’s license due to deteriorating health conditions. Sadly, once people stop driving, they often lose their independence and retreat from social activities with friends. Self-driving vehicles may help to restore a senior’s lost independence, and according to Kelsea Morse Manly, director of operations at The Villages, “Villagers love their lifestyle and driverless technology offers a promising new option for staying mobile… in a safe, affordable way.”
The Benefits of Self-Driving Cars and Transportation for Seniors
In a press release published on the Voyage website, the company describes the benefits of autonomous transportation for seniors with physical impairments, including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and vision impairment.
As well, in the coming months, the pilot project will wrap up and Voyage will begin to offer self-driving taxi services to all residents, which will include:
- A dedicated smartphone app for users to summon an autonomous car
- Affordable rates
- Door-to-door transportation services
- Travel anywhere within the 40 square mile bounds of the community
The Way of the Future
Although Voyage may be one of the first start-up companies to emerge on the scene, it is certainly not the only one. According to an article published in the New York Times:
“Waymo, the driverless car unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, started a trial ride-hailing program in Phoenix this year with several hundred cars.”
Controlled environments, such as business parks, city centers, college campuses, dedicated freeway lanes or retirement communities are the perfect testing ground for self-driving vehicles, so the collaboration between Voyage and the Villages may not be so strange after all.
What do you think about self-driving cars and the potential benefits they have for seniors? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.