Voyage Brings Driverless Fleet to Florida Retirement Community

The prospective benefits of having autonomous vehicles on our roads are many. Foremost among them is safety.

One oft-cited estimate is that driverless cars will eventually reduce on-road fatalities by 90%. The 24/7 availability of autonomous ride-hailing fleets will also make our lives more convenient, and perhaps less expensive as we transition away from individual ownership of vehicles.

Another major benefit is accessibility.

Underserved populations such as the blind and the elderly, who are often isolated due to their inability to drive, could dramatically improve their lives with greater mobility options.

This has been a prominent feature of autonomous vehicle legislation in the US. Both the Houseand the Senate have provisions in their driverless car bills that would establish councils to advocate for those with disabilities to receive access to self-driving vehicles.

To gain greater understanding of how self-driving cars can impact the elderly, there’s no better place to test than in large-scale retirement communities. That is exactly what self-driving taxi company Voyage has done in Florida, where it announced it will be bringing a ride-hailing fleet to service the 125,000-person retirement community of The Villages. With over 750 miles of road and three distinct downtowns, The Villages offers great variety to its residents. And with Voyage’s fleet of robotaxis, they’ll have easy, autonomous access to all of it.

Residents of The Villages will first need to download the Voyage rider app, which features an interface not unlike that of Uber or Lyft. They can then order a Voyage self-driving car to come pick them up, and enter in their destination. After they’ve completed their trip — perhaps shopping at one of The Villages’ eight grocery stores, or catching a movie at one of its three theaters — they can order another Voyage ride to take them home. It’s like a standard ride-hailing service, except the car is driving itself.

The Villages, Florida, is actually Voyage’s second pilot community for this type of project. The first was another The Villages community in San Jose, Calif. In a New York Times article, one former board president at The Villages in San Jose described accidents caused by elderly drivers in the community that involved cars ending up in ponds and tennis courts.

“The driverless car would be far less risky than the drivers that we currently have,” he said.

To generate HD maps for all 750 miles of roads within The Villages that can be read by the autonomous taxis, Voyage has partnered with Carmera. Carmera will not only render initial maps of the entire community, but also continuously update them via data accrued from sensors on the Voyage vehicles.

Voyage also announced that it had completed a Series A round of fundraising, bringing its fundraising total in 2017 to over $20 million. That money will go directly toward investing in expanded services for The Villages.

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