Someday sooner than you think, your self-driving car will liberate you from the steering wheel, the brake pedal and the bad drivers that force the good ones to be hyper-vigilant road warriors.
In your comfortable, safe, mobile room-on-wheels, you will be able to eat, drink, sleep, work, work out, watch a football game, stream a movie and have sex.
While sex in cars is nothing new — The Journal of Sex Research found that 60 percent of Americans have tried it — intimacy in a hands-free autonomous vehicle will be much less cramped than it would be in a little red Corvette, and much less contorted than Meatloaf must have been when he experienced paradise by the dashboard light because there will be no dashboard.
Computer-operated driverless cars will be spacious enough for beds or sleeping pods. Therefore, sex at 60 mph would be a prime “socio-behavioral” outgrowth of autonomous vehicle use, says a new study on how the technology will affect urban tourism, nightlife and lifestyle.
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“Hospitality and the hedonic night,” is the heading on the juiciest section of the report by Scott Cohen, a professor of tourism at the University of Surrey, and Debbie Hopkins, a lecturer on transportation at the University of Oxford in England, in which they examine what impact autonomous vehicle (AV) innovation will have on hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs and events.
Cohen said he expects sex and prostitution in AVs to become “a growing phenomenon.”
“For instance, ‘hotels by the hour’ are likely to be replaced by [AVs] and this will have implications for urban tourism as sex plays a central role in many tourism experiences,” Cohen wrote in The Annals of Tourism Research.
While ride-hailing service AVs, such as those run by Uber and Lyft, “will likely be monitored to deter passengers having sex or using drugs in them, and to prevent violence, such surveillance may be rapidly overcome, disabled or removed,” Cohen said. “Moreover, personal [AVs] will likely be immune from such surveillance.
“Such private [AVs] may also be put to commercial use, as it is just a small leap to imagine Amsterdam’s Red Light District ‘on the move.’ ”
Prostitution is illegal in the U.S. except for a few counties in Nevada but is legal in dozens of other countries. Where brothels are prohibited, sex workers need a place to do business, and AVs could facilitate transactions between them and their clients.
As AVs become mainstream, which Cohen predicts will happen by the 2040s, they’ll feature a variety of interior designs — and seat-belt configurations — to suit the passenger, and a private, cozy space for sex could be a big selling point. Then there are the possibilities for customizing the bedchamber, which we won’t go into here.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez envisions AVs as “rolling living rooms,” where people can sit face to face and socialize or even conduct a meeting. Mercedes-Benz calls the leather and walnut interior of its F015 AV sedan a “luxury lounge” for people with “a growing desire for privacy” in a “digital living space.”
“The car as we know it is going to change completely,” Gimenez said. “It’s a very disruptive technology that is getting closer and closer to rollout as these companies race each other to refine it. I want to make sure Miami-Dade is in the forefront.”
And the next transport revolution could come in the form of electric flying taxis, Gimenez said.
“People said I’m crazy, but we’ve talked to a company from Germany called Lillium that is developing a five-seater that can take off and land vertically and reach a speed of 185 mph,” he said. “Boeing may launch one next year.”
Gimenez took County Commissioner Esteban Bovo on a test ride in an autonomous Ford Fusion last week — accompanied by two human backup safety drivers. Ford — one of 30-plus companies vying to hone software and sensors to get self-driving cars ready for consumers — plans to begin selling its first model by 2021. The company has been testing a fleet in Miami out of its Wynwood depot since February. Ford recently announced a new partnership with Walmart that will enable customers to have groceries delivered by AV.
The convenience afforded by driverless cars will have multiple repercussions on tourism and travel, Cohen predicts. He sees AVs and their sleeping occupants streaming along highways at night toward their destinations rather than stopping at hotels. Volkswagen is developing an autonomous camper van.
“Restaurants may find themselves in competition with [AVs] that become moving restaurants, or combine urban sightseeing with dining — as exist today with dinner cruises,” he wrote. “Evening [AV] city tours may in this sense become more popular and be combined with increases in alcohol consumption as drunk driving will no longer be an issue when riding in an [AV].”
Imagine exercising on equipment or a stationary bike installed in your car during your commute. Writing emails on your computer. Completing a cross country road trip in 57 hours straight (two men did it in a Tesla on auto pilot).
Aside from making travel time more productive, AVs also hold out the promise of reducing traffic congestion, emissions, parking hassles and the number of accidents (90 percent are caused by human error, and our descendants may be shocked that humans were ever allowed to drive). Circulating AVs could reconfigure urban space, as parking currently occupies one third of downtown real estate in many large cities.
On the downside, AVs are expected to induce demand for car travel, which will increase the amount of time people spend in cars and their willingness to commute longer distances, thus encouraging suburban sprawl and discouraging use of public transit.
Cohen said hordes of AVs at tourism hotspots could cause logjams worse than tour buses do now, and AVs will put people in the tourism industry — particularly tour guides, bus sightseeing drivers and taxi drivers — out of jobs.
Intelligent, self-driving vehicles will turn us all into passengers and “change our cities at the same transformative level that the iPhone changed communications,” predicts state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, a champion of the technology to be showcased at the annual Autonomous Vehicle Summit Nov. 27-28 in Tampa.
“A number of enchantments underpin the often utopic visions of automated urban futures,” Cohen said.
Driving a car was a distinctly American passion. In the AV of the future, that passion simply gets transferred to what used to be the back seat.