Self-driving cars could be the brothels of the future, UK researchers say

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Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
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Heart drawn on fogged window of car
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Heart drawn on fogged window of car

UK researchers predict that autonomous cars might become the mobile red-light districts of the future.

Stewart Charles Cohen/Getty Images

Manufacturers have been working hard to show us what a future with the widespread use of autonomous vehicles would be like. We'll have dramatically fewer traffic incidents, more free time, less stress on our commutes and a place to engage in paid sexual intercourse.

Wait, back up a minute.

According to a study called Autonomous vehicles and the future of urban tourism, published recently in the Annals of Tourism Research by co-authors Scott Cohen and Debbie Hopkins and spotted by the Washington Post, self-driving cars will provide the perfect modern mobile replacement for the by-the-hour "no-tell motel," in which sex workers often ply their trade.

The researchers envision a future in which companies could specialize in transforming autonomous vehicles into rolling microbrothels with beds for seats, lighting and sound systems and massage chairs. We'd expect to see in-car, user-controllable, electrochromic windows play a significant role here, too. The researchers specifically call out cities such as Amsterdam, which has a bustling legal sex trade that caters specifically to tourists, as being a likely hub.

Given the illegality of prostitution everywhere in the US, barring select locations in Nevada, things might take a different tack here. Manufacturers and the companies that offer autonomous mobility services will have to figure out how to deal with people disabling in-car monitoring to engage in drug use or sexual activity. Think about how people act in cabs and then take away the cabbie's judging eyes in the rearview mirror. It's not a pretty picture.

All of this is naturally speculation, and it'll be quite a while before we see the kind of widespread use of autonomous vehicles that this paper imagines. So don't, you know, run out and buy a hazmat suit for your commute just yet.

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