The transition from vehicles with little or no autonomous driving features to a fully autonomous (self-driving) passenger vehicle will take place over a span of 25 or more years. That gives researchers plenty of time to estimate the impact of self-driving cars on a wide variety of economic activities. For example, how will self-driving cars affect tourism in cities?
One can imagine all sorts of ways that a fully connected, autonomous vehicle (CAV) could affect tourists and tourism. Shared CAVs, for example, could replace taxis, car rentals and even tour buses. Urban activities like visiting museums, going to sporting events or attending conferences are all healthy, acceptable ways for tourists to act and spend money, mostly during the day, in a new city.
But what happens after dark? Do researchers suffer from a kind of nyctalopia or night blindness? More metaphorically, what happens after dark that most people don’t see?
A new study on the impact of CAVs on urban tourism from researchers Scott Cohen of the United Kingdom’s University of Surrey and Debbie Hopkins of Oxford takes a brief look at urban nightlife, including the impact CAVs and shared CAVs may have on sex. That’s right. If the vehicle doesn’t need a driver, passengers may spend their time on other activities, and that can have an impact on hotels, events, restaurants and bars that the hospitality industry (and academics) haven’t given much thought to.
Will sex become more common in driverless vehicles? Does prostitution go further underground or become more visible? Will rent-by-the-hour hotels be put out of business by CAVs?
Shared CAVs are likely to be monitored to deter passengers from having sex, according to the authors, but personal vehicles are unlikely to be subject to the same type of surveillance. Unless, of course, the owner chooses to film what goes on in the passenger compartment.
And what’s to prevent a personal CAV from being used as a rolling red-light district? Gives a whole new dimension to the idea of a pimpmobile.
While this is all still speculation, Cohen and Hopkins believe after-dark uses for CAVs are worth thinking about now: “Reconceptualising the night-time also intersects with considerations of mobilities in the urban night, and the ways through which CAVs might afford new types of activities, practices, interactions and socialities, whilst preventing others.”