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Sex in your robotaxi

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I decided not to use a photo with this article

A Washington Post article suggests robotaxis may become popular for sex on wheels. In my talks I have often made the joke that while the auto industry quests for "Vision Zero" -- no automotive fatalities -- the robocar is the only technology that could result in people actually being created while driving.

People have had sex in cars probably as long as there have been cars. I am sure while the cars are a novelty that this will have an upswing, though in time the novelty will die down. The WP suggests that robocars, especially sleeper cars with beds, might even become brothels on wheels, or a popular, low cost private space that delivers itself to you.

I have written before about how to maintain privacy in the robotaxi and other privacy issues. Among my proposals is the idea that while robotaxi operators will want a camera that lets them inspect the interior (to spot when riders have damaged or soiled the vehicle, to bill them and send the car to a service depot for cleaning) that we will still want our privacy, and as such that camera should come with a physical shutter which you close to start the ride and open to end the ride.

If use for sex is a big issue, the camera can even shoot in the ultraviolet where bodily fluids are more visible.

But this may be too big of a deal. After all, there is another shared rental space where people are regularly having sex, namely the hotel room. We're all used to the idea that thousands of couples have used a hotel bed before us for whatever they wanted to do, and that the linens get changed. Use of any sleeper/bed style car will naturally include a change of linens.

A couple wanting a private space might well prefer to order such a vehicle, though there are reasons why things might still happen in regular ones -- lower cost, the desire not to be so obvious, and teens whose car services appear on their parent's bill. And of course, people who found the urge took them by surprise.

But even if a couple cleans up so the camera can't detect any difference after their "ride," the next passenger will certainly notice anything visible to human senses, not just the visual ones, and if they get a soiled car, they will ask for another one and that car will be sent to the cleaning depot for inspection and service, and the bill sent to the previous passenger. You may even get a credit if you're not doing these complaints all the time. Which will make people think twice (especially the teens) and be diligent about not leaving anything behind.

The reality of the world is that people do it everywhere, and will continue to. The world goes on, and we just try not to think about it. When you visit friends and sit on their couch, do you wonder if they've ever, and realize that if they're not Mr. and Mrs. Pence, they probably have? Do you jump up in revulsion? Probably not.

Muddy boots

Nothing to do with sex, but I have noticed that when we take a rental car for a road trip, even of just a couple of days, we've usually tracked some dirt into the footwells and left some small bits of trash behind. This is common because rental car companies all clean their cars between rentals and that's cheap for them to do as they all go to a depot where they can be vacuumed and cleaned in just a few minutes. With robotaxis doing urban rides, perhaps 30 a day, they can't go to the car wash between every ride so we probably will see the odd bit of dirt when we get into these. If it gets seriously visible, a cleaning will happen, but if it's too frequent it adds to the cost.

It should also be the case that if the passenger who made the mess pays the cleaning fee, people will be a lot more diligent. Or they might prefer the rental car model where the cost is built in to every ride by default, whether you leave some dirt or not.

Comments

What about in vehicle vending machine selling among others set of sheets? This could be priced in a way incentivizing the sheet purchase vs paying the "clean up" fee. Sheets like that could also be handy in less joyful moments like transporting sick kid (or adult) etc.

Who wants to buy sheets for one time use? Surely better to borrow them and return for cleaning.

I did not go into the issue of what sort of interiors cars will have. They will have all sorts. From transit-like seating that's easy to clean on the lower cost vehicles and the vehicles which serve bars late at night, to luxury leather seating if you pay for it. Though in general there will be a focus on things that are easier to clean, not just because of the potential of people doing the nasty.

There's a study from Dan Ariely on our poor judgement and decision making in the heat of such moment (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/bdm.501). The results of the study suggest that this would be exactly the moment to sell sheets, which could be by default one time only/disposable.

But I agree with the overall approach to choose easy to clean materials anyways.

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