I got started in the self-driving car world as a member of the team that built Udacity's self-driving car curriculum, and also an open source self-driving car. This industry is crazy fun and moving ridiculously fast.
Let me know if I can answer any questions at all about absolutely anything.
We're really excited about bringing Level-4 transportation to the world, but especially so at places like The Villages, Florida. 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.
(1) Will these cars have a Voyage employee in them to supervise?
(2) What are your driver intervention rates, eg. compared to Waymo? 
(3) Is there anything unique about The Villages, FL that makes it easier (or harder) to deploy self driving cars?
Congrats and interested to see the responses!
1) Yes, at least today. We call them Operations Specialists, and they're highly trained in operating autonomous vehicles and customer service.
2) This is a tough one, since it's not apples-to-apples. That said, Waymo is clearly the industry leader in this regard, and we're glad that at least some of their formula is observable from the outside. We've been at this a little less than a year, and today many of our passenger rides are 95+% autonomous. A long way to go, though!
3) We love these communities for a number of reasons:
A) Speed limits in these communities tend to be a little more restricted than everyday public road. The faster you (and others) can go, the more complex it becomes. The roads are also spectacularly well-maintained.
B) Customer acquisition is a non-trivial problem, and with these sorts of partnerships we gain (exclusive) access to 125,000 potential riders. It would be brutal for us to achieve the same in San Francisco, and not necessarily cost effective to retain them.
C) If we wanted to try out concepts that may accelerate the timeframe to remove the Test Driver, a private community is easier to collaborate with.
D) Above all else, there's just a lot of demand for what we offer in these sorts of communities. Self-driving cars will lower the cost of transportation, and for those with vision impairments (or Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s etc.), it enables such residents to get around with less friction.
Do you mind if I ask what portion of your rides are ~100% autonomous? I feel like that's a more interesting metric for progress toward removing human operators.
>> (1) Will these cars have a Voyage employee in them to supervise?
>>>> 1) Yes, at least today. We call them Operations Specialists, and they're highly trained in operating autonomous vehicles and customer service.
My understanding of the autonomy levels (for what they're worth) is that while a human is behind the wheel, autonomy is not at level 4. If a human is required to take control in certain situations, it's either level 3 or 2.
Also according to this techrepublic article, while level 3 may still require a driver, a level 4 vehicle can still be limited to the "operational design domain". So human drivers can still be in place for extreme edge cases. Although I don't know the specifics of these vehicles, and don't think the "levels" of driving are very useful.
Edit, forgot link: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/autonomous-driving-leve...
1) Is there a plan to be further integrated with the car eg hiding the LIDAR from plain sight?
2) On OSS, can you direct me to any OSS projects that is related to control the car ie the part from computer to the car or connecting the CANBUS.
3) What are the technical considerations, specific to Autonomous car, since you’re using OSS projects for it?
2) One of our engineers builds and maintains Carloop.io, which I can verify as awesome!
3) Safety and performance. One project to keep an eye on is ROS2, which is prioritizing development of real-time features (RTOS, DDS support).
I bet I can guess who this is
(for those of you who don't know, The Villages has arguably more miles of golf cart paths than highways, and all shopping plazas have golf-cart sized parking spots, so most of the retirees cruise around on their carts)
1) What are some of the issues surrounding adoption in local municipalities that you've faced with the deployment of this, specifically in Florida?
2) How do you go about convincing a local municipality to change their laws or issue waivers regarding legal issues about vehicles on the roadway that are autonomous, as specifically in Florida, the legal framework does not exist yet that I'm aware.
3) Explain your pricing model for the taxi's in The Villages and also does pricing decrease once the vehicles become fully autonomous (no driver in the front seat required)
I'd personally like to see a day, in my lifetime, where the pricing model of autonomous transport rivals that of vehicle ownership (which in my math is about $0.20 - $0.50/mile)
I can see the positives of less friction for this segment of the population. Kudos.
That said, what effort has Voyage put into helping the local community (and law enforcement) prepare for this?
For example, a person with Alzheimer's gets lost...now what? True, this might happen now but if you're successful then the social infrastructure might not be ready, willing and able to handle the add demands on that system.
I'm going to hang up and take my answer off the air :)
No one has figured this out yet, so we have some ways to go, but rest assured we take our responsibility super seriously.
I agree, no one has figured it out yet. But I'm not so sure anyone has tried. Action <> Reaction is not an "algorithm" tech companies excel at.
How far off do you think it is from a regulatory perspective before you can have the cars drive without anybody sitting in them?
Good idea, still too expensive per unit. Votage has a huge upfront cost spread over very few cars. Plus human drivers, which means "it doesn't really work yet". This is a "can we get market share before the money runs out" play. It worked for Uber. Things like this will be in retirement communities everywhere around 2025, once the sensors are in volume manufacture and cheap.
When I was working on self-driving (2005 Grand Challenge) I saw two initial use cases - this one, and airport rental car pick-up and return. Both require only slow-speed driving in reasonably controlled environments, something which can be made to work. Neither is yet economically feasible.
Might still not be that great if your clients are elderly.
It's far less of a headache dealing with one set of regulations for a community that has few, impressionable decisionmakers than trying to scale while trying to meet ever-changing individual regulations from each state/city and an uncertain national landscape. Only Google and the big automakers have the available influence to push for federal regulation standards and even those can be scrapped if some major incident happens or morons refuse to follow proper safety protocols to chase profits (uber).
If Tesla pushes level 4 or 5 autonomy, they need to consider every circumstance (rain, snow, dust storms, tornadoes, ice, and so many other random unique Mother Nature quirks), every road construction issue, hazards, fallen trees etc. all at once. It just isn't feasible. You need city employees to report fallen trees, garbage truck routes, area with frequent deer or animal crossings etc. They can't just say it's autonomous in one particular area where maybe only 100 Teslas are present, it's just not economical.
I think this route of small community adaptation is the most likely and it's great to see most players shift to this model. This means that automakers aren't going to be the big players in this space for another decade or so. It's not economical for big beuracratic, slow moving businesses like Ford to enter into this landscape. Small companies and startups pushing into this has its advantages and disadvantages however.
Tesla is apparently planning to launch their own car service, which from an economic standpoint may be poised to win. It will involve Tesla owners being able to add their car to a public fleet and essentially have their car make money for them.
It's plausible the Tesla model will win out because, in the majority of hours, only about 20% of the fleet is used in a car service. RideAustin, as a nonprofit, has publicly available ride data to support this. So with a dedicated fleet, you'll often have a lot of unused cars that will be quite inefficient. With the Tesla model, however, the money-making portion is a secondary purpose for the car's ownership, with the primary one being the owner's own convenience when needed.
Hope this is explained accurately!
I am the kind of person who would get a tesla and I would never want to deal with the inconvenience of lending my car to a public fleet so it could get fucked up by drunk people.
Also how does the car know if someone throws up in it before picking up another passenger?
I'm a strong believer in self driving cars but don't think car ownership will decline meaningfully. Having your own self-driving car still brings you home when you're drunk but without waiting in the cold (or surge pricing if the bar just closed).
Camera + microphone + vomit recognition software.
Obviously the market would adjust from current taxi rates, but this is based off of the following rough estimate:
20 hours per day of you not driving * 30 days * 11$ avg taxi take-home per hour = $6600
Owning a car is (for most) not just a necessity, it's an expression of freedom. Being reliant on a car sharing app is not ideal for everyone, esp. families.
Also I don't think it would last very long driving around 20 hours/day every day.
It would be like airbnbing my apartment. Huge pain in the ass all the time with maintenance and dealing with other related issues.
Problem: Peak demand for car service customers and peak usage for owners is likely to be at the same or overlapping times.
Especially if there are serious competitors in this space, governments could enact laws that speed up safety requirements (and maybe speed up innovation too).
One thought: Governments could force driverless companies to share their data, in some inter-operable format (think a 3D map, or 6D if you had speed information?) that could be read by other cars nearby. For instance if there is a stroller with a baby in front of the car in front of you, or if an accident happened in the street you are about to enter, you would be able to read it from the information emitted from cars that are closer to the danger/obstacle. Current technologies allow this. My guess is that sensors will gain substantially in terms of robustness. (Imagine what you can do with one set of lidar/thermocamera/visial cameras; now imagine what you can do with data from 10 of these sets from different locations!)
Smaller players (such as Voyage, although it seems you got there far already!) would probably benefit from this and it would benefit competition/innovation. Governments would likely be happy to force this into law because if it makes sense for safety.
Anyway, congrats for the real-life launch
Would it be accurate to summarize that while most autonomous car companies are going for gradually higher levels of autonomy nationwide/worldwide, Voyage has the opposite strategy of starting at a higher level of autonomy in one controlled community and will aim to expand geographically from there?
Now? Isn't that a bit optimistic? To me it looks like they have just one car for testing. At least they understand that they need the environment mapped to a very fine degree.
We have a service that's live today in San Jose that serves tons of (repeat) riders daily. We've learned a lot there that we're applying directly to Florida.
As a real-world example: we have a couple who uses our self-driving taxi service multiple times a day every day (The Grims), and their rides are ~95+% autonomous.
I remember how voice to text got to 95% in the nineties. It's used for a lot of things these days, still not for safety-critical tasks.
A long way to go for sure, but having been at this just less than a year, we're feeling good!
The good news is that a point cloud map is relatively trivial to create, and the pipelines to update such a map over time are becoming more understood. There's lots of startups taking on this challenge.
They simply can't take those decisions. Yet. As companies such as this make headway, roads will become more standardized to help them along.
I wonder there was any consideration given to just adding automnomy as a module to the golf-carts that are currently widely used in these communities. It seems that could allow for faster deployment, lower legal barriers and lower capital investment.
The autonomous vehicles in Black Mirror's recent Hang the DJ fits this concept.
I wonder if they have security cameras covering every street, similar to the UK. You could set up some facial tracking across all the cameras, and a centralized security system in every house, and it might become the safest city in the world. It could also make a great episode of Black Mirror.
I work remotely on my laptop, and my wife and I have a lot of hobbies, including yoga, ballet, archery, art, music . We're living in Chiang Mai, and many of the archery club members are retirees from the UK. So we're already interacting out with some older people, and don't have any qualms about it. All residents of The Villages must be over the age of 19, but 20% of the houses can be owned by younger people who live by themselves. Not saying we would want to live there, but it's not too hard to imagine.
This would also be a great place to build home automation startups (or even city automation), just like Voyage is doing. For example, many of the residents might be able to afford robotic chefs . The system could automatically order your groceries, and they'd be delivered by a self-driving Voyage car. Then another robot in your house could receive the delivery and store the food in your smart refrigerator.
It also makes me realize that a blockchain might be unnecessary. You trust your neighbors, you trust the people who manage the community, and you trust the legal system, lawyers, judges, and prisons. So there's probably no need for a trustless payment network in a community like this. The Octopus card works fine in Hong Kong, and it's just integers in a database.
Lots of people are working from home these days, so I think this might lead to more planned communities. The digital nomad lifestyle is great for a while, but it gets exhausting after a few years. Hopefully there will some communities that are geared towards younger people and people with families. I've also been following the High Street Cohousing Project  in New Zealand. Would be very interested to hear about other cohousing projects and planned communities.
Although it was a little awkward growing up in a town with so many senior citizens, it was really nice in some ways. The Villages brought amenities to our small town that we would have never had access to.
However, I would argue The Villages is a lovely place to live and a fantastic place to retire, but it's not very suitable for tech startup. There is no technical talent there. Florida as a whole suffers from a lack of a great tech ecosystem (although there's a few big cos. here and there). Of the working age population, The Villages mostly consists of service and health workers.
That being said, you might be able to find/attract some talent in Orlando or Gainesville. Still, it's nothing like what's in some of the major tech hubs around the U.S.