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There’s a new selling point for a sprawling development proposed for a rural area 40 miles from San Diego: robots.

The suburban Lilac Hills Ranch project would replace 600 acres of mostly avocado and citrus groves in North San Diego County’s Valley Center with 1,700 homes.

County supervisors will have to vote on the project.

To help seal the deal, the developer, Accretive Investments, is partnering with a company that will connect homes in the new neighborhood by a network of robots.

They will carry your groceries home from the market and keep a watchful eye on your kids when they walk to school.

“It’s like a bike share program but where you don’t have to pedal and where the bike comes to you!” explained David Bruemmer, CEO and cofounder of 5D Robotics, the company providing the robot network, in a letter to the County’s Planning Commission urging it to approve the project.

The company uses technology it developed for soldiers in combat to carry heavy gear from one place to another. The company calls the technology “Virtual Rail.”

“Virtual Rail will support the use of self-driving electric pods that can carry people throughout the development,” Bruemmer wrote. “Imagine Uber but where there are neither drivers nor cars.”

In a press release touting the robots-on-a-track technology, Accretive listed some of the ways it could improve residents’ lives:

• Robot vehicles to support pedestrian-oriented walkable neighborhoods
• Robot vehicles to help carry your groceries home when you walk to the market
• Robot trail companions to make sure your kids walk to school safely
• Robot vehicles to enhance mobility and walkability of the community

The company is ambitious.

“Currently, we are kicking off planning phases to provide Autonomous Intelligent Mobility in Carlsbad, Encinitas, and New York City,” Bruemmer wrote.

He is holding a press conference to demonstrate the technology Thursday morning.

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

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