Self-driving taxis come to The Villages in Florida

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A Voyage taxi awaits a passenger in The Villages, Florida. (Luke Beard, Voyage)
A Voyage taxi awaits a passenger in The Villages, Florida. (Luke Beard, Voyage)

Silicon Valley start-up company Voyage announced Wednesday that it has launched the second test of its self-driving taxi service at a 55+ retirement community.

The effort at The Villages in Florida follows the launch the service in October at a San Jose, CA, community called The Villages Golf and Country Club.

“Whether it's helping those with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, vision impairment or just those who want to get around with less friction, we've seen first-hand the positive impact autonomous transportation can have for seniors,” Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron wrote in an announcement posted on the company's website. “With Voyage's successful deployment at the 4,000-resident Villages in San Jose, we are now energized to tackle the challenges of a city-scale community and beyond.”

The company currently is recruiting riders and said it plans to expand the availability of the program in the coming months.

The Villages is located in Sumter County, FL, which the U.S. Census Bureau said had the highest median age in the country in 2017. In 2016, the bureau said that The Villages metropolitan area, west of Orlando, FL, and named for the retirement community, was the nation's fastest-growing metro area for the third consecutive year.

Cameron said the door-to-door taxi service will be available to all 125,000 residents of The Villages when it is fully operational. Users, who will summon cars with an app, will be able to travel anywhere within the 40 square miles of the community.

“And boy are there places to go!” Cameron wrote. The Villages, he said, has more than 100 dining options, eight large grocery stores, golf courses, 7.8 million square feet of commercial and retail buildings, three movie theaters, more than 80 tennis courts, a 297-bed regional hospital and a charter school for the children of staff members.

Cameron said that residents of the community have shown “enthusiastic” and “overwhelming” support for the initiative. He recognized state Sen. Jeff Brandes for helping to pass legislation in 2016 that enabled fully driverless vehicles on Florida roads.

Voyage will partner in the effort with Carmera, which is mapping all 750 miles of road within The Villages and will provide continuous updates of data to the self-driving cars.

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