From No Phone to Riding with Waymo One: Sheila Shares Her Journey with Foundation for Senior Living

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving,

In a single moment of luck and curiosity, Sheila found her beloved permanent home in Acacia Heights, a Phoenix community for seniors and people with disabilities.

She was walking along a Phoenix street one day while running errands, and, having bounced around from place to place for 10 years, she was looking for a more stable community to live. She looked up and happened to see Acacia Heights, an affordable housing community managed by the Phoenix nonprofit Foundation for Senior Living (FSL).

“The building and the colors… they’re subtle, they’re warm,” Sheila recalls. “The location attracted me.”

Sheila went inside and spoke with FSL property manager Jeff Weist. Jeff placed Sheila on a waiting list for housing at Acacia Heights, but Sheila didn’t have her own phone number. She relied on different people to check in with Jeff. A few weeks later, a spot opened up for her.

“I contacted her, and honestly I think she was almost crying on the phone when I contacted her to come in so we could start paperwork for housing for her,” Jeff remembers.

Sheila says Jeff went above and beyond to help find her a home at Acacia Heights.

“I’m very, very grateful that he brought me in and that I ended up with FSL,” Sheila says.

Sheila says she loves all the community events at Acacia Heights and the opportunities that come with being connected with FSL, an organization with a mission to serve seniors and people with disabilities and embracing innovations to drive their vision.

FSL and Waymo are partnering to explore how autonomous driving technology – which is designed to drive safely and obey road rules – could help seniors like Sheila stay connected and maintain their independence.

Sheila, who lives with a disability and does not own a car, says she enjoys hailing rides with Waymo One, Waymo’s fully autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix.

“Right now if I want to go to the store or go to an event downtown… Waymo will take me there safely and bring me back to the location,” Sheila explains. “That’s independence for me even though I don’t have a car.”

In addition to the convenience Waymo One offers, Sheila says she appreciates that Waymo’s technology is designed with safety as a foundational principle.

“I think it’s safer than having a human [driver]…  because Waymo has all these cameras that are set up to really be able to perceive any movement on the road,” Sheila explains. “And a lot of drivers nowadays, of course, we have distractions.”

The Waymo Driver is designed with a suite of sensors, including cameras, radar, and lidar, to see 360 degrees around the vehicle, identify and differentiate other road users, and make safe, proactive and defensive driving decisions that are based on myriad data points.

Sheila says using Waymo One to get around on her own is part of living an active lifestyle and connecting with the community, which she says helps keep her healthy.

“There’s a world out there,” Sheila emphasizes. “Just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I’m done or don’t want to work anymore and just stay at home. That is not healthy.”

Sheila says she’s ready to have adventures.

“I’m ready to go zip lining. I’m ready to jump out of a plane. Whenever I get that opportunity, I’m definitely going to do it. You have to stay active,” she shares.

Sheila says she urges others who may be in a time of transition or uncertain about the future to remember that nothing is permanent and not to dwell too much on negative things.

“You have to step out. You have to breathe air. You have to see people. You have to talk to people. You have to do different things. Don’t give up,” Sheila says.

She says she is grateful to FSL for helping provide a pathway to permanent housing and to Waymo for providing another mobility option to run errands, get her groceries, and connect to the community.

“That means a lot for us,” Sheila says. “We keep our independence at the same time and we take care of ourselves at the same time.”