Online learning company Udacity decided to redirect the engineers it’s training into a new spun-off self-driving tech company, Voyage, back in April. Now they’re starting to test their autonomous technology with Retirees in San Jose bringing more independence with self driving vehicles.
Voyage installed its software and sensors into a couple modified Ford Fusion cars and began trying it out in the Villages Golf and Country Club in California, a retirement community with about 4,000 residents whose average age is 76. The gated environment is ideal with pedestrians, golf carts, animals and roundabouts for Voyage’s autonomous vehicles to learn how to drive around — but with a speed limit of 25 mph, The New York Times reported.
There’s an added benefit to testing in a retirement community: It is private property. That means Voyage doesn’t have to share ride information with state regulators, freeing it from some bureaucracy. But testing in the community meant different obstacles, like insurers requiring Voyage to have double California’s $5 million in coverage funds and to hand over all driving data. To reassure the retirement community, Voyage gave them as much equity as they give to a new hire.
As companies recognize the buying power of an aging population requiring assistive technologies, retirees have a lot to gain from self-driving cars. Losing the ability to drive due to loss of vision or other disability often cuts people off from the outside world.
By deploying in these communities Voyage also gets to solve real problems for over 4,000 people, like Beverly Clifford. Beverly was Voyage’s very first passenger. As a blind resident of The Villages, Beverly encounters daily friction with transportation. To get around, Beverly relies heavily on her husband and their car, so if her husband isn’t free, neither is Beverly. With Voyage’s VoiceOver-enabled iPhone app, Beverly can now summon a self-driving taxi to her doorstep and travel freely in the community.
Companies like Voyage are insightful to tap in to a market where other self-driving companies haven’t been yet.
Source: The New York Times