Voyage tests its self-driving cars in retirement communities

The Udacity spinoff is trying out its tech on 15 miles of private San Jose roads.

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 folks who could be greatly empowered by autonomous vehicles: Retirees in San Jose.

Voyage put 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 surprisingly ideal: 15 miles of roads 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 another benefit to testing in a retirement community: It's 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.

That aside, retirees have a lot to gain from self-driving cars. Losing the ability to drive often cuts folks off from the outside world, so it's interesting to see Voyage explore where other self-driving leaders haven't been yet.