One of the largest retirement communities in the world is set to embark on the self-driving car revolution. A fleet of robot taxis will soon serve the 125,000 residents of The Villages in Florida, thanks to Voyage, a start-up company that has invested into this space.

We might not be so far away from adopting such technology in our own villages. At both Retirement Village Association and New Zealand Aged Care Association conferences last year, futurists spoke about the inevitability and practicality of self-drive cars entering this space.

Ohmio Automation, a subsidiary of HMI Technologies, recently launched its driverless shuttles in Christchurch. The shuttles won’t appear on city roads just yet, but they could appear in controlled environments like retirement villages, airports, or universities.

The shuttles have self-mapping artificial intelligence, which means once they have driven a route under supervision they can remember the way and drive it autonomously.

Ironically, research carried out in the US indicates that older people feel less comfortable with automated driving than younger people. Only nine per cent of baby boomers reported feeling confident enough to ride in a fully driverless vehicle, compared to 38 per cent of Generation Z (ages 12-15).

However, residents are likely to be more open to the idea of sharing electric cars they drive themselves. Kerikeri Retirement Village has embarked on such a car share operation, thanks to funding from the Kerikeri Village Trust and the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

The retirement village intends to buy a small fleet of electric vehicles to establish a car share operation for use by residents and staff, with the hope of eventually expanding their fleet and extending it to non-residents. It will also install a DC fast charging unit in Kerikeri for the public to use.

The village has also indicated that it is happy to share the process with other New Zealand retirement operators who might also be interested in establishing an electric vehicle car sharing scheme.

“Shared EVs make sense for retirement village residents who typically travel short distances and who will no longer need to own and maintain an often underused petrol car. The project has demonstration potential for a fast growing sector,” says the EECA.

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