How autonomous vehicles will impact tourism

Dog at the wheel of an autonomous car.

A conceptual paper from the University of Oxford and the University of Surrey has envisioned the impacts autonomous vehicles will have on urban tourism.

Some potential benefits identified were a reduction in traffic congestion, resulting in fewer pollutants be emitted. Simplified foreign car hire, reduced parking requirements and cheaper taxi fares were also suggested as positives. In terms of the hospitality industry, restaurants and hotels may find new competition from autonomous dining vehicles and passengers sleeping in their moving vehicles.

Among the negative effects, people are likely to spend longer amounts of time in cars on journeys, which could make for a larger urban sprawl and increased car dependency. Autonomous vehicles may reduce the demand for train travel, coach tours, public transport and driven taxis altogether, resulting in job losses.

“The visitor economy will be gradually transformed if AVs become fully automated and mainstream, leading to a future where hordes of small AVs could congest urban attractions, hop-on-hop-off city bus tours may go out of business altogether, motorways between cities could fill at night with slow-moving AVs carrying sleeping occupants,” said Professor Cohen, head of tourism and transport, University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“This groundbreaking study will benefit urban planners, policymakers and the tourism and hospitality industries, who will face a range of threats and opportunities as AVs begin to reach the mass market in the coming decade.”