Marolt: Anticipating the automatic tourist | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Anticipating the automatic tourist

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

I've been thinking about driverless cars. They will turn traffic into trains, of sorts, and they will turn the world's highway and road systems into electronic rails. Every car will have an electronic connection to the automobiles in front and back of it, making all of them flow simultaneously. Commuting will become a snap, and there will be little need for subways, conventional trains or buses.

It seems logical that more people will take advantage of the driverless cars, and that might cause there to be more cars on the roads, but automation will improve the efficiency of traffic flows so we will move faster and might even burn less petroleum than we do now.

Not only will traffic move quicker, but reading the paper while drinking the morning cup of joe will take the drudgery out of commuting, or folks will even nap, so people can live farther away from where they work. That could make living in places like Rifle or even Parachute while working in the mountain resorts a more realistic lifestyle arrangement.

But I don't think commuting is the biggest way these kinds of computer-driven vehicles might change our lives. Envision working here on Friday, coming home and having a regular family dinner, slipping into your PJs and then heading for the garage, getting in the car, programming some coordinates into the computer, hitting the hay and waking up in San Diego sometime around noon on Saturday. This will revolutionize the way we travel!

As for the upper Roaring Fork Valley tourist industry, suddenly the Front Range population of Colorado is in play as regular weekend visitors, even just for an overnight quick Saturday ski trip. Any Denverite could go to sleep in their car on Friday night after setting the "start" time like they now do with their automatic coffee pots. The computer chauffeur fires up at 3 in the morning, and its passengers wake up and unload in front of the Main Street Bakery at 7 for bacon and eggs over easy. Really, any destination within a 12-hour drive to be covered during the night is a possibility to spend any old weekend in.

I think there is going to be huge demand for driverless RVs. Doesn't it make sense that the average family of the near future will own a couple of little auto-piloted commuter cars and a larger one for longer trips that will accommodate lounging, dining and sleeping? Think of traveling far more often and never having to pop for a hotel room again.

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Resorts and tourist traps are going to be super-crowded. Overnight parking lots are going to become prime real estate investments. Hotels may not be great future business ventures. Motels will become relics. Restaurants will probably do pretty well; travelers will want to get out of their vehicles sometimes, and eating is a good lure to do so. Pay toilets may become more common; coin-op showers, too.

With this incredible leap in technology, it may be difficult to maintain a luxury resort atmosphere. How do you do that when the cost of getting there and the expense of sleeping there are within the grasp of the average family? I guess for a place like Snowmass, you can raise the price of a ski lift ticket to intergalactic levels, but I'm not sure that will do much. I think lots of people wouldn't care. Even if they couldn't afford to ski, I bet they would still like to come and look around or even try cross-country skiing or skinning, which don't cost too much.

I suppose you could outlaw the parking of RVs in town, but then I think people might just program their cars to drive around town all night while they sleep inside them. That could be a realistic proposition especially if really efficient, alternative-fuel cars are developed. It might cost next to nothing and be environmentally friendly enough to keep the cars of the future running all day and night.

Your guess is as good as mine as to what is going to happen once driverless cars become commonplace, but it seems to be pretty indisputable that they are going to be commonplace. I read just last week that people in the know predict that these cars will be on our roads within five years. If so, it seems likely that within a decade more people will own them than don't. In 20 years, almost everyone will have one.

This brings up two pertinent questions for Snowmass Village people: First, will Base Village be finished by then? Second, will it be relevant?

Roger Marolt is anxiously awaiting the invention of the thinkerless brain. Email roger@maroltllp.com.

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