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Will Southern California Be Home to Nation's First Self-Driving Vehicle Network?

If one Southern California developer's big promises come to be, Lilac Hills Ranch will be the first community in the nation to offer its citizens a private vehicle network where self-driving cars would be summoned via an app.

by / October 26, 2015
Aerial view of West Lilac area Google Earth

A new community being planned in North San Diego County promises to be the first in the nation to implement self-driving vehicles on a community-wide basis. The proposed development, called Lilac Hills Ranch, would encourage sustainable living through green building architecture, an arrangement of buildings that encourages walking, and self-driving vehicles that could be used for personal transport or goods delivery.

"The goal is to use 21st-Century technology to augment and promote the pedestrian experience in the community," Jon Rilling, president for Accretive Investments, developer of the project, told "The plan is to integrate these vehicles throughout the community, and they would only be available to residents in the community to help people with daily household chores. They can also be used to increase safety by providing advanced life-support systems such as automatic external defibrillators."

The community would include a K-8 school, a 50-room country inn, a senior center, water reclamation plant, 1,700 dwellings and a village-style arrangement where every home is within a 10-minute walk to the grocery store and village center.

Through a partnership with Carlsbad, Calif.-based 5B Robotics, the developers hope to also create a mobile app that allows community members to use the self-driving vehicles. The proposed vehicles would not use GPS to navigate, since they would not need to leave the community, but instead operate on a finite "localized virtual rail network" that does not extend beyond the community, Rilling said.

The developer's plans are bold and if executed soon, would make the community the first in the nation to implement a community-wide self-driving vehicle system.

Other technology proposed for the community includes prewiring all the homes for solar systems, electric-car charging and rain-harvesting systems that would allow all homes in the community to reach zero-net energy by 2020.

The project was approved by San Diego County Planning Commission, according to, and development is scheduled to begin within a year, pending approval from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

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