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Autonomous Cars to Be Tested by Seniors in Florida

When you think of retiring to Florida, you think sunny days and soaking up the easy, breezy lifestyle, right? But innovative self-driving car technology? Not so much. That’s about to change, thanks to a push to bring autonomous cars to seniors in the Sunshine State.

Voyage, an autonomous vehicle startup that specializes in a type of robotic taxi service, announced it will give 125,000 folks living in a Central Florida retirement community free rides in self-driving cars.

Robot, Meet Taxi

It’s being called the world’s biggest self-driving experiment, in which folks residing in the Villages retirement community near Orlando will travel hundreds of miles of roads in cars with no drivers (technicians will be present, however, to monitor the system and take the wheel if needed).

Operating as a door-to-door taxi service, the vehicles will pick up seniors at their homes and drive them wherever they need to be. So folks needing to shop for groceries or hit up the golf course can do so without getting behind the wheel themselves, and it’s free of charge (for now). At a later date, there will be no technician, and a transportation fee will be added.

“Villagers love their lifestyle and driverless technology offers a promising new option for staying mobile and active in a safe, affordable way,” said Kelsea Morse Manly, director of operations at The Villages.

Have App, Will Travel

When the system is fully operational, all 125,000 residents will have the ability to summon a self-driving vehicle to their doorstep using the Voyage mobile app, then travel anywhere within the bounds of the community fully autonomously. In an interview with CBSNews.com, Voyage’s CEO, Oliver Cameron, said 80 percent of The Villages’ residents, whose average age is 72, have smartphones and will be able to access this free service through the app.

The company also announced its patterning with CARMERA, a New York-based mapping company, to outline the community with high-resolution maps, including street signs, intersections and parking lots.

It seems like retirement communities might be the perfect testing ground for autonomous cars, due to the way the streets and neighborhoods are laid out. If you needed another reason to spend your twilight years in Florida, a robotic taxi service may just seal the deal.

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