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Self Driving Cars Hit the Road in The Villages: Revolutionary Change for Retirees?

Category: Travel

February 17, 2019 — A potential solution to one of the biggest problems facing older retirees is on the road in The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community.  Voyage, an automated taxi service, is testing driverless cars within parts of that community’s road system. If successful, the project will help older residents enjoy the freedom and mobility that comes with a car – even if they are not behind the wheel of that vehicle.

To begin with a certain number of “pioneers’ are able to use these taxis at no charge.  The pioneers can call up a driverless car to go shopping, doctor’s appointments, recreation, visit friends – whatever they can reach within the neighborhoods involved in the test.  The cars have a backup “driver” and a top speed of 25 m.p.h.

Giving up driving

Losing the independence that comes with hopping in one’s car and taking off is one of the most frightening things that awaits older Americans.  It is said that the average person lives 10 years longer than their driving ability, while 8 million people over 65 do not drive at all. In many cases older people continue to drive because of a mixture of pride and practicality – how else are they going to get where they need to go.   Until driver tests or the intervention of family members take away the keys, most people want to keep on driving, even if they have become a risk to themselves and others.

Transportation on demand

Voyage taxi in The Villages

Not being able to drive oneself for important tasks is costly and inconvenient. One estimate is that over 3 million older citizens miss medical appointments every year because of transportation issues. In other cases people hate to be a burden to friends and neighbors, so trips to shopping, community events, social engagements, and recreation just don’t happen. Isolation is the result.

Will they be accepted?

One huge barrier to the success of driverless cars has already emerged. Older Americans are less tech oriented and more risk adverse than younger ones. Some 67% of of people over 50 say they would not use an autonomous taxi. However, almost the same percentage said they would be willing to own a self-driving car.  As people become more comfortable with services like Uber and Lyft, as well as other tech-transformed products, it is hoped that older people will become more accepting of driverless taxis. 

Revolutionary potential 

If successful and expanded across the nation, driverless cars might be a revolutionary solution in the world of retirement. More people will be able to stay in their current homes longer, because they can get to wherever they want to go just by ordering one of these cars. Isolation, one of the biggest problems for older Americans, will be less of a problem.  Retirees will be happier because they can experience the same freedom to roam that they had when they were younger.  And other Americans will be safer too, because millions of unsafe drivers will be off the roads.

Your comments

Driverless cars bring up a host of provocative questions. Would you be willing to ride in a car that has no driver?  How willing would you be to give up your driver’s license if a friend or relative told you they didn’t think you were no longer a safe driver?  Will driverless cars change your thinking about where you retire? Let us know in the Comments section below.

For further reading

Voyage Launches Self-Driving Taxis in The Villages

Why Self-Driving Cars Are Perfect for Retirement Communities

Posted by Admin on February 17th, 2019

6 Comments »

  1. There sure are a lot of companies eager to get people into driverless vehicles. But why? Just because we have the technology to do it? What is the advantage for most people to use such a vehicle over the current alternatives? Unless the driverless vehicle is subsidized so that it is free or nearly free to use, why would I use it over Uber or a taxi or one of the transportation services specifically for seniors?

    How would you interact with a driverless vehicle to tell it to drop you off at the side door of a building where there aren’t any steps or to help you out of the vehicle or to carry your groceries up to the door? I just don’t understand the value to me of using one of these. Maybe they would be useful in a closed circuit like hop on hop off busses running between fixed points. Otherwise, if I can no longer drive, I’d prefer a human to make sure I get where I want to go and to assist me if I should need help.

    by LS — February 18, 2019

  2. No way! The technology of self driving cars is very immature and unreliable! We are years away from a device that can safely and reliable drive itself!

    by Ron — February 18, 2019

  3. I’m very optimistic that new technologies will make aging a lot easier for us that it was for our parents but not sure I’d jump into driverless just yet, too many stories on the news about problems with that technology. For now, if I couldn’t drive I’d be happy with Uber, Lyft, and online ordering, and possibly online Dr. consults which are becoming more available.

    by jean — February 19, 2019

  4. I think the driverless car is definitely a safer option for our future (assuming we live long enough to get there). The situation described in the Villages is one I would immediately volunteer for — backup driver in limited area at max 25mph — if you live there why not?

    Ron is right, the technology isn’t there now — but it will be fairly soon (5 years? 10?). Most of us interact today with voice enabled phone answering systems — they have improved remarkably in the past 10 years. We may hate the menus, but they mostly work. A better version will be included in true driverless cars as will improved artificial intelligence. Personal help other than the transportation is not currently the objective — but that is likely also in the future in various forms. (Robots, hover lift vehicles, drones, etc.)

    We’ve all read or heard of the few incidents where some current driverless car test has caused an accident and even resulted in death. Today in the US we kill 10s of thousands on our roads every years. Distracted driving is an increasing threat to all of us. Whether you believe or not, the future driveless car is a practical and near ideal resolution to these concerns. Do I expect perfection? Well, I would LIKE perfection but there will always be incidents. Still, I’ll take a few thousand incidents over 10s of thousands of deaths anytime — especially when even the fender-benders will be near eliminated.

    by RichPB — February 19, 2019

  5. I feel The Villages is the perfect place to test the driverless cars, I wouldn’t hesitate to get in one. I’ve been to The Villages several times visiting friends and I felt I could never move there due to the golf carts noise of constant breaking and gassing and they are lined up at some intersection 10 deep. it is a good way to get around but have witnessed a few accidents -none serious- with these folks driving like crazy people. Driverless cars may be safer!

    by Jake — February 19, 2019

  6. ” the technology isn’t there now” … “A Navy Ship Sailed to Hawaii and Back With No One on Board” … https://www.military.com/defensetech/2019/02/15/navy-ship-sailed-hawaii-and-back-no-one-board.html?ESRC=eb_190218.nl

    by Rich — February 19, 2019

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