The future of travel? A self-driving mobile hotel room – USA TODAY


Imagine taking a road trip and never having to stop for a food or bathroom break.

Steve Lee, a designer at Toronto-based Aprilli Design Studio, has come up with an idea that could make that happen: The Autonomous Travel Suite.

Think of it as a hotel room on wheels. The driverless mobile suite would have a sleeping area with mattresses, washroom facilities with a toilet and sitting shower, a space for working or entertaining, and a small kitchen. It could fit up to five people.

“It’s basically a hotel room so it has everything inside it,” he says. “Whether it’s six hours or 10 hours, you’ll feel comfortable inside it.”

The Autonomous Travel Suite won this year’s Radical Innovation Award, a design competition for the hospitality industry.

Does the idea sound far-fetched? Driverless cars have already been tested on the streets of some U.S. cities and in London. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he could have self-driving vehicles on the road by next year.

Lee predicts his Autonomous Travel Suite could be on the road by 2030. The battery-powered vehicle would pick up travelers at home and take them to their destinations. It could travel up to 10 hours.

It would take the place of domestic flights or train travel, eliminating the need to commute to the airport or train station and go through the check-in and security process. Lee says the suite would operate as a rental car and a hotel room, providing more flexibility, privacy and comfort.

It would also cut costs, he says. The rental price of the suite would be far less than the cost of all the combined travel services.

And unlike traveling by car, passengers can work, sleep or play rather than concentrate on driving.

“It means basically we’re going to gain a lot of time on the road,” he says.

Travelers would order the vehicle through an online app, specifying the destinations and desired services. The Autonomous Interface would then analyze the best routes.  

For longer trips, Lee envisions developing an Autonomous Hotel Chain, a network of hotel facilities that would offer stationary parent units and amenities such as fitness centers, spas, pools, and meeting rooms. He believes major hotel companies such as Marriott International and Hilton would be able to build the infrastructure at their properties to accommodate the suites.

“The existing hotels can continue to update their facilities to fit the needs for autonomous vehicles,” he says. But, “eventually it would be great if there’s a dedicated brand for it where everything is designed around it.”

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