Self-driving cars have long since ceased to be a crazy vision of the future and is now taken seriously by big auto companies and prospective consumers alike. But in the long run it could not only reduce road accidents or stress on the way to work, it could also become a popular place for paid sex.
In the rather dryly-titled study "Autonomous vehicles and the future of urban tourism", recently published in the Annals of Tourism Research (no pun intended), the two authors Scott Cohen and Debbie Hopkins deal with various future scenarios of the modern city and how self-driving cars will change tourism.
The professor of tourism and the lecturer in transport studies consider it likely that self-driving cars will become the perfect mobile replacement for hotels or brothels in the future. The researchers describe a future in which companies will specialize in developing or expanding self-driving cars or vans with matching benches, beds, armchairs, lighting and sound systems for horizontal activity.
Sex tourism could 'drive' smart car adoption, but that's not all
Of course, in regions where sex work is clandestine and illegal, organizing a fleet of mobile brothels isn't particularly feasible. The main hub for this development would, therefore, be cities such as Amsterdam, where the legal sex trade is aimed specifically at tourists. The horny traveler would simply pick up their smartphone and fire up the appropriate app, the development of which is of course still pending. There, the desired available escort is selected, perhaps even the desired services, and then the self-driving car arrives.
This kind of high tech sex industry may make things safer in a notoriously risky profession, presuming that the cars are tracked and registered, and the app users are logged.
But it's not only sexual services that can take advantage of the supposed boom in self-driving cars. Sightseeing is an obvious example cited in the study, but it's also logical that the service industry will adopt these autonomous vehicles outside of tourism.
For example, the self-driving pizza truck shown in Black Mirror doesn't seem too far-fetched even nowadays. After all, big pizza chains have already announced plans to make it a reality.
Restaurants with food prepared by robots are already a thing, and it's not a huge leap to get them moving on the road. Or you could dump your dirty laundry into a self-driving vehicle, either summoning one via an app or just finding one doing the rounds and picking up clean/dry clothes on its scheduled return. For the more self-indulgent corporate types, imagine a robocar with built-in massage chairs, foot baths and relaxing music/scenes for mediation between busy meetings around the city.
As someone who doesn't really enjoy spending a long time in the car myself, I can still see a lot of potential in mobile services offered by self-driving vehicles, which can make our daily chores more convenient overall. It'd have to be balanced against potential environmental concerns of course, but advancement in electric vehicles comes hand-in-hand with the development of autonomous driving.
The clandestine use of self-driving cars
Once we get used to seeing blacked-out windows on autonomous vehicles, it does open some possibilities for more shady activities. A discreet "sex-taxi" or other privacy-oriented autonomous car service could also provide a cover for drug deals or arms trafficking. The monitoring systems inside the car could all too easily be manually switched off or hacked. The large number of people who have already used the vehicle makes it easy to cover the tracks. Imagine what people in taxis would do if it weren't for the watchful eyes of the driver.
Of course, these are all speculations at the moment and who knows what the future will bring. I'm looking forward to robot kitchens and the like on the road, but there's a particularly striking risk that makes the roving brothel seem quite dangerous. Because when you imagine self-driving cars in which you sit in a massage chair, sleep or have sex and let the AI handle the road, it's still a risk. You're in a vehicle and it's all too easy to lose your life in an accident, especially if you're stuck in an awkward position.
What do you think of the possible uses of self-driving cars? Is there any service you'd like to see adopt them?