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Transportation United States Technology

Senior Citizens Will Lead the Self-Driving Revolution (theverge.com) 137

The Villages in Florida -- home to 125,000 residents, over 54,000 homes, 32 square miles, 750 miles of road, and three distinct downtowns -- will soon get a fleet of robot taxis. "Voyage, a startup that has been operating a handful of self-driving cars in the San Jose, California-based retirement community also called The Villages, announced today that later this year it will expand to the much-larger Villages north of Orlando," reports The Verge. "This is thanks to a successful Series A fundraising round that raked in $20 million in 2017." From the report: It's an indication that, strangely enough, many of the first people to fully experience the possibilities presented by self-driving cars will be over the age of 55. Most experts agree that robot cars will first roll out as fleets of self-driving taxis in controlled environments -- college campuses, business parks, dedicated freeway lanes, city centers, or retirement communities. Self-driving startups get to boast about providing a real service for people in need, while seniors get to lord over their grandchildren about being early adopters of a bold new technology. They're also getting something a little more valuable: Voyage is giving the owners of The Villages and the smaller San Jose development equity stakes of 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, according to The Information. Voyage's self-driving cars aren't fully driverless. Safety drivers will remain behind the wheel just in case there's a need to intervene. And to compliment its digital mapping capabilities, the startup says it will partner with Carmera, a 3D mapmaker for autonomous vehicles. This type of partnership is necessary for what Voyage believes is "the largest deployment (by area size) of self-driving cars in the world."
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Senior Citizens Will Lead the Self-Driving Revolution

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  • Sign me up! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @03:06AM (#55906341) Journal

    It even comes with a Get-Off-My-Lawn button.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've seen these places and as someone who is almost 65, if anyone suggested that I go live in one of those Ghetto's then I'd probably kill them.
    Sorry people I'm not going to go into those places ever again. The sense that everyone is just 'Waiting for God' was over powering. As for all that beige clothing. Ugh!

    There is no way that I'm done with life. Later this year, I'm going to ride a motorcycle right around Australia. My kids are with me on these places.
    sorry, no. no and thrice No.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aussie_a ( 778472 )

      You're a complete psycho. If someone says something to them you are going to commit murder?

      For fuck's sake. I hope someone locks you up before you do anyone serious harm.

      Get a grip.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't think the poster is a psycho. They are more than likely saying that anyone who suggested that they go live there is mad and that they'd rather die than join the others in those Ghetto's. I rather like that term for these places. It is better than 'Prison Camp for the Forgotten'. There are others names that are unprintable.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by aussie_a ( 778472 )

          if anyone suggested that I go live in one of those Ghetto's then I'd probably kill them.

          Either the GP has a poor understanding of English or they are in fact claiming they would likely kill anyone who made this particular suggestion to them.

          That is not the course of action reasonable people take. Psychos on the other hand, have no such compunctions.

          • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

            Sorry my friend, he's obviously not being serious. It would seem your grasp of English and reading between the lines is pretty poor. As I asked in another post, do you have aspergers? It would explain you're complete inability to see what is so obvious to others.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        It's called hyperbole. If I met someone as dense as you in real life, I'd probably kill them.

        Hint: that's also hyperbole.

      • Or just another socially clueless aspie? Can't you spot metaphor and hyperbole when its so bloody obvious?

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      Sorry, the silicon valley bros will soon announce than motorbikes will be banned since its unlikely an automated motorbike woiuld ever be developed and they can't have their nice automated cars on roads with unpredictable human drivers now can they?

      Silicon valley knows whats good for us, remember that. Big Brother has nothing on these guys.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Later this year, I'm going to ride a motorcycle right around Australia.

      I recommend a jet-ski or boat for riding around Australia. Motorcycles don't deal well with being submerged in the ocean.

    • I prefer to piss off the Grim Reaper by living somewhere other than a retirement barrio. Let the shit have to waste time hunting me down.
  • by ClarkMills ( 515300 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @03:34AM (#55906395)

    Drugs don't seem to work 100% for her so she can't drive. The elderly & the blind (vision impaired) are all early candidates.
    I like driving but even I'd prefer to /. , gander or snooze. Bring it on.

    • by rossdee ( 243626 )

      I have poor vision, not quite legally blind, bjt certainly not good enough to drive.

      and my wife has epilepsy.

      I walk to work (1 mile) except in bad weather (like rain or extremecold.)
      Fortunately right now its my night off.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @07:44AM (#55906837) Journal

      The elderly & the blind (vision impaired) are all early candidates

      Exactly. I don't understand why the authors of the article find it strange that the early adopters of self driving cars are people who have problems driving themselves. For them, there's a clear business case that justifies the expense. The fact that the Villages is a closed community filled with prospective clients makes it a perfect candidate for a pilot. Not strange at all...

      • My mother is legally blind and has been unable to drive for years now. She's 65 and can't really navigate the Uber process on a smartphone (especially due to low-vision). My dad currently has to take off work to shuttle her to doctor appointments. I'm sure they aren't alone in this predicament and SDC will be a godsend for those with such disabilities to be able to get out of the house and carry out normal daily functions. Even for able-bodied individuals, it will be great to gain back driving time as p
      • by dpilot ( 134227 )

        I've said for a while now that I want a self-driving car before my kids come to me to take my keys away. I see the value and dignity of independent mobility, but I also know that at some point accumulated knowledge and experience will no longer compensate for an ageing body and brain.

        • I won't let my kids use self driving cars until they are at least twice as safe as a human driver in any condition including ice-rutted roads in blowing snow. I don't think that's going to happen in my lifetime. Maybe not theirs.
    • by be951 ( 772934 )

      Yes, there are a number of things that affect elderly people such that they cannot or should not drive -- vision impairment, as you noted, and even just declining ability to react quickly enough to safely operate a vehicle.

      Those factors, combined with attributes of a retirement community like the Villages, such as being a somewhat isolated environment, moderate traffic, better than average signage and road markings, somewhat favorable weather (e.g. they're often in places with no snow), etc... make it a goo

  • Most senior citizens don’t have copious amounts of spare cash - so this first really needs to filter down to the low end of the automotive market.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @03:57AM (#55906427)

      Most senior citizens don’t have copious amounts of spare cash - so this first really needs to filter down to the low end of the automotive market.

      You might want to look up [usnews.com] this "retirement community". Their target customer isn't senior citizens, it's rich people who happen to be over 55.

      The community, geographically larger than Manhattan, features more than 40 golf courses, a polo arena and special events throughout the year. Most of the more than 123,000 residents travel via golf cart, some of which have been upgraded enough to cost more than most cars.

      I betcha the streets are all very low speed limits if golf carts are considered "normal road traffic". Perfect place to test a bunch of unproven vehicle technology.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @04:13AM (#55906453)

      Most senior citizens don’t have copious amounts of spare cash

      They do in The Villages. It is located in Silicon Valley. A townhouse there can cost nearly $1M, and a modest house nearly $2M. It is not for poor people. It is a good choice for a rollout because they can afford the cars, and many of them are techno-geezers.

      Disclaimer: I live in San Jose, about 5 miles from The Villages, and I know several people that live there.

      • They do in The Villages. It is located in Silicon Valley. A townhouse there can cost nearly $1M, and a modest house nearly $2M. It is not for poor people.

        From my understanding of real estate in Silicon Valley, these property values are typical.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @05:36AM (#55906605) Homepage

      Most senior citizens donâ(TM)t have copious amounts of spare cash - so this first really needs to filter down to the low end of the automotive market.

      But you don't need "most", you need a market that has moderate wealth and who'd desperately like to get back to the freedom of having a car. I think my parents would be a good case, they lost their driver's licenses involuntarily - okay my mom gave hers up, but only because it was obvious she wasn't fit to drive anymore - and they have a down paid house and comfortable economy. They could take taxis and occasionally they do but it's to them different, it's like not their car, driven by a stranger and for some things like going to their cabin it feels awkwardly expensive even though that's more psychological. I mean let's say they'd probably have a $30k car each if they could drive, together plus extra "I want it" factor... I think they'd pay $100k for a self-driving car.

      Not that this sounds like anything like that, it's a slow-moving ride with a safety driver meaning it's basically just testing of the kind Google has been doing for many years. This seems to be more of a novelty, but I guess they're hoping to be bought by someone trying to jump on the SDC bandwagon. I'd be very surprised if this is the path to market dominance. But they, the more the merrier I just wish they'd get there... they've barely started to put the safety driver in the back seat, much less kick him out entirely.

    • The people in The Villages in Lake County are far from poor.

      Not a single fucking one of them can drive though. Even the ones that aren't as old as Methuselah. I don't miss Leesburg Florida a bit. I'm told it's much worse than it was 30 years ago now that that place has gotten so big.

    • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

      Individuals may not be able to afford it. But as a taxi with no labor cost (no driver), the car will be in use all the time, spreading the cost of the vehicle across a hundred trips per day instead of the 2-6 per day most individuals would make. With self-driving taxi's, I will only pay for the portion of the car I use. So, instead of buying a whole car, I pay for the wear and tear of one trip, plus the fuel, repairs, insurance, etc. that corresponds to my use of the vehicle. And instead of having to commit

  • Will seniors trust them? What about disabled young people like me? :(

    • Re:Trust? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @04:18AM (#55906465)

      Will seniors trust them?

      Many seniors engage in evidence-based-reasoning. If data shows SDCs are safe, and they have a lower accident rate than HDCs, then they will trust them.

      What about disabled young people like me? :(

      Young people tend to just go with the crowd. So if their Facebook friends trust SDCs, so will they.

      • Re:Trust? (Score:5, Informative)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@NoSpAM.worf.net> on Thursday January 11, 2018 @05:09AM (#55906563)

        Many seniors engage in evidence-based-reasoning. If data shows SDCs are safe, and they have a lower accident rate than HDCs, then they will trust them.

        No need. If a self-driving car lets a senior get around still, they will buy them in droves. Seniors can be fiercely independent, and often one of the hardest things a son or daughter must do is confiscate their parent's driver license, or write to the DOT saying their parents should have their license revoked.

        Likewise, many seniors will go into depression if their doctor says they shouldn't drive anymore.

        A self-driving car that lets them drive around still is a godsend as they're not dependent on taxies, public transport, uber/lyft/etc or family to drive them around.

        Thus, they are more receptive of SDCs if it means they can still maintain a lifestyle of relative independence. Even in the early days, all it takes is one of the neighbours saying they are much happier being able to get around by themselves even though they were forced to give up their license to have everyone out car shopping the next day.

        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          My mom drove well past the point where she was a danger on the road. Luckily nobody got ever hurt. Once she told me she would not drive, I insisted of selling the cars ASAP, she she would not change her mind.
          Would self driving card been a thing, I would have suggested it at least 10 years earlier to buy one of those.
          It would have given them an even better life experience than what they already had. Now one of them was not allowed to have wine with their food or where restricted to close restaurants that th

      • Many seniors engage in evidence-based-reasoning.

        And yet far more seniors engage in jaded skepticism. Trust in technology and technological adoption including technologies which take over decision making is far more prevalent among the young than the old.

        The research on this has shown the trends not to change over time. It is still consistent with the angst older people had about autopilots in airliners and computers in the 80s and 90s.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mentil ( 1748130 )

        Many seniors also engage in blatantly prejudicial and biased reasoning. Ask a WW2 vet who swallowed the anti-Japanese propaganda how they feel about Sony or Toyota, 75+ years after the war and the occupation and the rewritten constitution and all the new generations of Japanese born after the war who were raised on Western ideas. As one example. There's also "this is the way I've always done it, so I'll do it this way until I die" stubbornness. There are TONS of people, seniors or no, who feel safer driving

      • Re:Trust? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stealth_finger ( 1809752 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @07:18AM (#55906789)

        Will seniors trust them?

        Many seniors engage in evidence-based-reasoning. If data shows SDCs are safe, and they have a lower accident rate than HDCs, then they will trust them

        Really? I tend to find they flatly reject anything that's not part of their already established worldview.

        • To generalize, but only slightly, we older folk have world views that are both based on, and consistent with, actual experience. We are generally willing to change them given sufficient evidence, but quite reluctant otherwise. And keep in mind that the blatherings of politicians and celebrities and so-called "scientists" or "experts" who don't do actual, evidence-based science, or are on the payroll of those with vested interests in said blatherings, do not constitute "evidence." We tend to remember the
      • Many seniors engage in evidence-based-reasoning

        Maybe where you live, but in the UK the analysis of recent election results tells the exact opposite story. Older people were far more swayed by appeals to emotion than to logic.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well I see it like this:

      "My granddaughter told me about this autopilot car thing. I was of course, not impressed, but she convinced me and took me for a spin round the block---and let me tell you Gretchen, it was a whopper! Real daggum fine piece of work. Those tech folks sure are onto something, and I don't have to strain my hip every time I gotta brake at the corner with the loose-chained dog! the auto driver just went right around Fido."

      Basically, word-of-mouth and pilot programs for subsidized rates wil

    • Of course they will trust them......there will still be an actual human driver behind the wheel.

      This is putting the cart before the horse so to speak (the bumper before the AI?)......the technology isn't ready for self-driving yet, and they are already trying to sell it. Realistically, once the technology is ready, people will be lining up to buy it. That stuff will sell itself.
    • I know people 40+ that say they will never trust them. One person I know has adaptive cruise control in their car and won't use it.

      Also, I think it depends a lot on whether they get you to your destination 99.999% of the time, or tend to stop by the side of the road confused about something.
  • My dad now only drives for local journeys during daylight hours. For anything else he either gets a lift or a taxi. I'm sure that if a self-driving car was cheaper than using taxis he'd sign up.
  • In our lovely caring environments, every once in a while, we read something about an elderly person being found dead in the apartment only because after a couple of months the stench had become unbearable and flies manifested themselves all around... I wonder how long it will take until we will read stories like "senior drives 400 miles in automated car while dead"? Do we have to pronounce this "progress"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It will be safer. There will be a button that drives you to the nearest hospital or police station probably. This is better than "senior dies at the wheel causes 12 car pile up". Besides, if your Apple Watch can already track your heartbeat I'm sure the car will know if your vital signs are abnormal and recommend help. It is most definitely progress.

    • It sure beats the current situation where dead seniors drive into someone else and kill them too. If you have some strange objection to traveling while dead, we can add an auto-eject system to detect when the occupant stops breathing and toss them out onto the shoulder of the road while the car goes home.

    • I wonder how long it will take until we will read stories like "senior drives 400 miles in automated car while dead"?

      They can detect driver death from sensors in the seat. So, it will probably happen in China, but not here in the USA.

  • If all cars were electric, I wouldn't have to turn down my hearing aids due to the road noise from the highway!

    --
    Alexa, add "big hairy balls" to my shopping list. - Cartman

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @05:23AM (#55906587)

    strangely enough, many of the first people...will be over the age of 55

    Many elderly people have reached the stage where they know they should not be driving any more, but have to...or move from the house they've lived in for years. So this could be great for them...

    • by Shag ( 3737 )

      And even those who are still fine know it's going to happen sooner or later.

      A sixty-something guy I used to work with got a Tesla in part because of all the assistive features (and opted for the features), because he figures in 10 years, he might appreciate things like self-park, stay-in-lane, adaptive cruise control and all that, even if he doesn't need them right this instant.

    • Many elderly people have reached the stage where they know they should not be driving any more, but have to...or move from the house they've lived in for years. So this could be great for them...

      My parents can still drive ok. They just find it more and more stressful as they age. They just bought a new Toyota with all of the available accident avoidance systems, and they love it.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @08:19AM (#55906903)

    Reading these comments, it seems nobody has actually been to the Villages in Florida.

    The summary is right, it's huge -- it goes on and on and on. What it leaves out, though, is that the entire place is meant to be navigable on foot but mostly via golf cart. Everybody there has a customized golf cart, and you can go anywhere in the Villages via golf cart and everyone does. There's almost no automobile traffic.

    The place is split up into "towns" with each one having a little town square and often its own recreational features (pools, community centers, golf courses, etc). They're all open to all Villages residents, too, and the little squares have businesses that are unique.

    It's also pretty affluent -- the newer parts of the Villages are pretty luxurious and I think they get a lot of money for the homes/townhouses. The older parts are more similar to small prefab houses, but I think the whole place is in demand and while parts are cheaper, none are cheap. (Side fact: very high STD incidence in the Villages).

    Anyway, it seems like a reasonable place to test self-driving cars due to the limited traffic. The downside is you'll never pull these people out of their golf carts. I'd wager that there are people who can't drive a car but still drive their golf cart. Plus, most of the residents are still in a pretty mobile/independent stage of living. If you already can't drive at all, you probably have other problems that make living in your own home a challenge, limiting the audience for self-driving cars.

    • I lived in Leesburg.

      Those people already can't drive. If they leave the Villages, they operate their car as if they were in a golf cart. Badly.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Let me guess: if you try to leave a Rover will pursue you?

  • that will lead the Self-Driving Revolution.

    I get the article and it give a good insight. But when I think it been 20 years that I remind my mother that she don't need to double-click a link on her facebook, I'm pretty sure the elderly won't be too thrilled about automomus car.

    On the other hand I look at myself. I got a car with a manual transmission and, once, I told a techie friend that I'm not gonna buy a self-driving car because I love to drive. But then he told me that not only and I could play with my

  • The Villages are famous for a couple of interesting problems. High rates of STDs is one but not the important one here. There is a huge theft problem with their customized golf carts the olds drive around there. A chop shop ring was recently busted run by some of the residents. They steal the cars, chop them & sell the parts. Could be interesting to see how long self driving cars can make it there.
  • So this is the car equivalent of the Jitterbug phone where its functions are dumbed down for the elderly. I kid...I kid...
  • One of the biggest markets for self driving cars is providing car service for people that can no longer drive themselves safely. No longer will a senior citizen who has lost their license (or has just become to afraid to drive) be dependent on their friends/neighbors/children to get them to the doctor's office on time or down to the corner grocery store to pick up some bananas and prunes.
    • The question is, will self driving be reliable enough for them? What will happen when it turns the wrong way down a one way street and pulls over and turns off?
      • by atrex ( 4811433 )
        It pulls over and pages a technician who either assumes control of the vehicle remotely to put it back on the road or who drives to the location and fixes it while commercial laden video entertains the passenger (who may or may not get the cost of their ride refunded in exchange for the inconvenience).
        • Will they have training to deal with an elderly person that may have medical conditions? How long will this leave the elderly stranded without meds?
          • by atrex ( 4811433 )
            Well, considering that these vehicles are being deployed for a retirement village, they should include an emergency call button that the person can press to get medical assistance in such events (OnStar/911/etc). Or, the vehicles could include biometric monitoring features to monitor the condition of the passenger and automatically alert medical personnel/drive the vehicle to an appropriate place in the event of a medical emergency.

            Obviously, the service time interval in the event a technician's presence
            • I think you are way overestimating how frequently automated cars will get confused and stop. Certainly an order of magnitude more than when a taxi breaks down or fails to deliver the passenger.
  • Millennials are the ones not purchasing cars or bothering to learn to drive or get licenses. They'll be the ones pushing for the robotic driver revolution.

  • I'm 70 and have a Tesla. The car gets regular software updates to improve it's Autopilot and safe driving capabilities.
    I'm hoping that the car will improve at least as fast as my abilities decline so it can take over as I become feeble.

  • Will it leave the turn signal on as it drives down the road?
  • In other news, AI researchers were startled to discover that self-driving AI's trained on Florida streets now leave their left blinkers on all the time.

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