In 2019, Paradise Valley Estates became a deployment site for Optimus Ride, a leading self-driving vehicle technology company based in Boston, Massachusetts. The nonprofit Life Plan Community in Fairfield, California began a progressive rollout of the self-driving systems earlier this spring, with the objective of allowing community residents to reserve or schedule rides to on-campus locations. The technology took on remarkable new roles in mid-March when the community closed to outside visitors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In early March, Optimus Ride was nearing completion of phase one of its deployment at Paradise Valley Estates and providing point-to-point mobility services within the gated community. With the success of phase one, the program was beginning phase two and was on track to serve the entire campus by the end of May.
On March 18, Paradise Valley Estates introduced a campus-wide stay-at-home policy on effectively closed areas such as community dining halls, a café and the community center post office as precautionary measures against the virus. At the same time, Optimus Ride paused passenger access at all of their sites, including Paradise Valley Estates.
To ensure seamless, high-quality meal delivery to the more than 500 residents at Paradise Valley Estates, the dining services team coordinated a fleet of community golf carts to begin delivering meals right to residents’ homes. Within 24 hours, Optimus Ride pivoted their services to supplement the delivery fleet and provided their first dinner delivery that same evening. Since then, Optimus Ride has home-delivered more than 3,200 meals and also now assists with home-delivery of packages.
Completing a major shift in services within a short timeframe during a global health crisis was no small feat, says Kevin Burke, chief executive officer of Paradise Valley Estates. “Our partnership with Optimus Ride is about more than providing self-driving vehicles to our community,” he says. “They share our commitment to resident safety and wellness and have made it evident day after day by pitching in and helping us provide top-notch services for the people who call our community home.”
Optimus Ride plans to continue its delivery services to Paradise Valley Estates residents as long as needed. When campus dining halls and common areas can safely re-open, Optimus Ride will resume passenger access, with the eventual goal of expanding services to the entire campus. “Paradise Valley Estates is truly a pioneering Life Plan Community with the vision to see the benefits of radical innovation,” says Ryan Chin, chief executive officer and co-founder of Optimus Ride. “As COVID-19 started to accelerate, Optimus Ride exercised the flexibility in our self-driving vehicle systems to quickly shift to delivering meals to the entire population within Paradise Valley Estates. As the pandemic subsides, self-driving logistics will be an increasingly important service in Life Plan Communities across the U.S. and beyond.”
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