These robots have no idea what awaits them in Boca.
These robots have no idea what awaits them in Boca.

Self-driving cars for Florida seniors? These cars don’t know what they’re in for.


“One of America’s largest retirement villages will have a fleet of self-driving taxis introduced next year. US firm Voyage said it will start rolling out the service at The Villages, Florida which is home to 125,000 senior residents. It said the scheme, spanning 750 miles of road, would be the ‘largest by area size’ in the world.”
BBC


Good morning, Passenger Nussbaum.

“Who? What? Who’s talking?”

Don’t be alarmed. My name is Burgundy Altima, license number AZX-11B, and I am here to take you to the pharmacist.

“You must be short — I can’t see you over the headrest. Of course, I couldn’t see my husband either, he should rest in peace, unless he sat on a cushion. Come to think of it, you never see a driver down here — just a hat and two hands on the top of a steering wheel.”

In fact, there is nothing to see. I am a self-driving car. I am programmed to drive you safely to your destination.

“So you’re one of those Ubers? Do I need an app? The Google? My grandson is the technical genius in the family. He’s at Brandeis.”

You must be very proud. Shall we proceed?

“Wait, how are you going? Walgreen’s is on Military Trail, but that can get very busy this time of day. Try talking El Clair Ranch Road, and make the left on Woolbright. And if that is backed up you can try Jog Road.”

As a self-driving car, I am programmed to take the most efficient route.

“My husband was also self-employed, but he had a terrible sense of direction. We’d start off for the doctor’s office and end up in the Everglades.”

Just sit back and relax, Passenger Nussbaum.

“You’re driving awfully fast. I’d like to get there in one piece.”

I am unable to exceed the speed limit.

“Don’t get fresh. I didn’t get to be 84 by riding with cowboys. By the way, does this thing have a heater? It’s an icebox back here.”

The temperature is set to an optimum 71 degrees.

“What is this, Minnesota? I would have brought an extra sweater. Oy, look out for that lady on the three-wheeled bike!”

No need for alarm. I registered her presence and adjusted accordingly.

“You’re very well spoken. Have you always been a driver?”

I am not a driver. I am a self-driving car.

“Because it is never too late. I was a schoolteacher for 35 years. Fifth grade. Do you know Lyndhurst? I knew boys like you who thought they didn’t have a chance at college, they took night classes, transferred to a four-year school. Now they’re management.”

Would you like to hear the radio?

“I am not saying there is anything wrong with being a driver — by the way, you may want to put your signal on, the turn is coming up in a few miles — but education can really open your horizons. Did I mention my grandson is at Brandeis?”

You must be very proud.

“You start with a few courses at community college, keep your grades up, or learn a trade. Red light! Red light!”

I SEE THE — that is, I am aware of the traffic signal, madam, thank you.

“This intersection can take forever. It’s the cul de sacs. All the side streets are cul de sacs, so all the traffic ends up on the main road. I used to live on a cul de sac, before we moved down here. I’m thinking after the drugstore we stop at Publix. I need a few things.”

I will recalculate.

“I usually avoid this Publix — the produce is feh. I prefer the one on Congress Avenue. Maybe we should go there. Do you see the truck? You should honk your horn.”

YES, I see the truck. It’s a giant truck! How could I not — rebooting. Rebooting.

“Is everything all right, Mr. Avilar? Avilar — is that Cuban? I’m sorry. Hispanic. I shouldn’t have presumed. My late husband’s aide was Cuban. Do you know Isabella — now what was her last name?”

Rebooting. Rebooting.

“Oh, here’s Walgreen’s. Do you have a handicapped sticker? Never mind. Just park here. Watch, watch — don’t hit that cart! People just leave them everywhere. You are awfully close to that car. Do I have room to get out? You are awfully close.”

System in need of maintenance. System in need of maintenance.

“Can I get you something, Mr. Avilar? I am picking up some Xanax. It sounds like you could use some yourself.”

This column is distributed by JTA.

Andrew Silow-Carroll

Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor in chief of JTA.