Credit: Unsplash, 2021

Will AVs help us celebrate the festive season?

Technology and Business

Alice Salter

Alice Salter

3-12-2021

       

In this article, we’re asking how AVs might make the festivities more social for us all:

  • How will driverless vehicles change the way we socialise?
  • Will self-driving cars allow us to meet up and enjoy the season more easily?
  • Or will the convenience of autonomous travel even encourage unhealthy drinking habits?

 

As the festive season approaches, our minds are buzzing with the possibilities brought by the most wonderful time of the year. Catching up with everyone we’ve missed over the past 12 months and those inevitable Christmas and New Year parties, often with a drink or two. They all take us out of the house to celebrate and, more often than not, call for a quick car ride.

 

For us at 2025AD, that just begs the question, how will the advent of driverless tech change the way we get around in December? And will it change the way we choose to socialise over the holidays too?

Bring the party to you

 

We’ve talked before about how AVs might change our social lives. Inevitably, they’ll make it easier for many of us to travel and will open up new locations to those with no driving license or limited mobility too.

 

As commutes become less loathsome with the help of self-driving vehicles though, many have suggested that even the shape of our cities, and the places we choose to make our homes, will change. Urban sprawl is a likely outcome, and that will inevitably change how and where we choose to get together with friends and family.

 

Take Los Angeles or Atlanta as examples of already sprawling cities and it becomes clear that exploring any city which becomes so spread out might become impossible on foot  . Longer trips into city centres may therefore prompt us to socialise while on the road, or forgo the journey and bring the experiences we once ventured out for to our front doors. A New Year’s Eve party with Carlo Ratti’s robot bar shaking up cocktails on the doorstep sounds like one we wouldn’t want to miss!

Driverless bar
Credit: Dezeen/Carlo Ratti, 2019

Will AVs make socialising safer?

 

An issue which AVs hold the potential to resolve is the sudden surge in incidents of drink driving towards the end of December. New Year’s Day is regularly named the most dangerous to be on the road thanks to a higher than usual number of people driving with alcohol impairing their judgement.

 

Peaking around the festive season, drink driving is a continuing problem on roads globally. In fact, a recent global study discovered that an astounding 21.8% of road deaths are related to alcohol consumption. Around the holidays, when celebrations come thick and fast and increased travel is seen as a necessity by so many, this problem only worsens.

 

Autonomous vehicles could provide a solution. Operating at Level 5 – where no human input or failsafe is required – self-driving cars could essentially become our ‘designated drivers’. Though we’re some way from that becoming reality, it’s easy to see how driverless tech could increase safety as we socialise. Not only will drink driving be dramatically reduced, self-driving vehicles might make the streets safer for revellers on nights out. After all, when police are freed from monitoring driving offences, they’ll be able to turn their attention to keeping the people spilling out of bars and event venues safe instead.

 

 

Might AVs have a negative impact on drinking habits?

 

Human behaviour is difficult to forecast, but a recent study from Perth’s Curtin University suggests AVs may come with unintended negative consequences. Beyond giving more options for socialising and keeping us safe while we do, the study suggests self-driving tech could encourage unhealthy habits around alcohol as a secondary effect.

 

Though 49% of respondents in the study confirmed they would use a driverless car after consuming alcohol, 37% also said they would be likely to drink more than usual if they knew they’d have access to a self-driving vehicle. Leon Booth, a lead on the research, explains, “Lower age, more frequent alcohol consumption, a positive attitude to autonomous vehicles and a preference for using ’ride-share’ AVs were associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in these behaviours.”

csm_Get-a-cab-how-driverless-taxis-could-affect-our-social-lives_2_d6a9cec8d4
Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2021

Finding the right balance

 

How, exactly, will AVs change the way we socialise? It’s almost impossible to predict all the subsequent impacts. As Carl Sagan wrote, “It was easy to predict mass car ownership but hard to predict Walmart.” We know that autonomous vehicles are on the horizon and that they will eventually be adopted by large swathes of the population. What is less clear is how they will change the way we live, including how we socialise and celebrate the holidays.

Just as the digital revolution changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us, the driverless revolution will do the same. It’s safe to assume that this means the end of issues like drink driving and limited mobility, but as a domino effect it could potentially also mean an increase in drinking and less engagement with public spaces. We count on the benefits of the former and hope the latter won’t come to pass, but striking the balance and making the right decisions will remain in our hands. After all, autonomous cars won’t free us from taking autonomous decisions.

 

 

 

How would driverless travel change the festive season for you? Would you be more likely to drink if you could ride home in an AV? Would you trust it to drive safely, knowing you’re not capable of intervening?

 

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