April 29 2019

Self Service of the Future: The Autonomous Travel Suite?

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a widespread consumer shift towards self-service automation. With so many options to access services independently such as online banking, shopping, TV and music streaming, the debut of Amazon Go’s first automated retail stores, Uber – the list goes on, the self-service model is rapidly growing in popularity across industries. For many consumers, it represents an exciting opportunity to experience a fast, efficient shopping or service process that puts them in control and maximizes their time at the simple touch of a button. In a recent survey, 66% of shoppers admitted they prefer self-service technology over interacting with a retail sales associate.

As self-service technology continues to evolve and gain popularity, it’s not at all surprising that when it comes to hospitality, self-service options are becoming an ever-expected part of the travel experience, from hotel check-in and airport kiosks to car rental stations, keyless entry to hotel rooms, mobile concierge and more. Self-service tech provides a myriad of operational benefits and for the guest they satisfy their convenience cravings and deliver a more streamlined, consistent experience.

Self-service technology has the power to transform the customer experience so it’s not overly startling to learn that many hoteliers are looking for more opportunities to tap into the on-demand self-serve dynamic that so many modern guests seem to prefer. However, how far are hoteliers willing to depart from the traditional values of hospitality to meet customer demands for convenience? How about a self-driving, staff less, mini hotel room on wheels that could pick you up straight after work and drive you to your destination? Well, now it seems that one day, you may be able to travel without ever leaving your hotel room – or ever meeting anyone for that matter.

Toronto-based Aprilli Design Studio is producing the Autonomous Travel Suite which combines the idea of a mobile hotel as a new form of hospitality and advanced transportation. The suite – which was a grand prize winner at this year’s Radical Innovation Award – will accommodate up to five guests and comes equipped with basic sleeping, working and washroom functions, with the aim of allowing guests to use their travel time more efficiently and productively.

Hoping to launch by 2030, the vehicles which will be driver-less and battery-operated, will offer door-to-door pick up and drop off of passengers and travel of up to 10 hours on a single charge. Travelers would simply specify the destinations they want to visit via an app, and the interface will analyze the best routes to take. Any necessary services can also be requested through the app.

The company has also strategically considered travelers’ desire and preference for perks of stationary hotels and have included in their plans a hotel chain of Automated Travel Suites across road networks. The stationary “parent units,” which the Autonomous Travel Suites can dock into, allow customers to recharge their vehicles while also enjoying the amenities of traditional hotels such as a meeting rooms, spa, pool, and gym, along with housekeeping etc. The design studio also anticipates that nationwide hotel chains may be interested in adding a fleet of driving suites to their brand – which is an interesting concept in its self.

Does the idea sound far-fetched? Well, not really. Companies like Renault are creating self-driving luxury lounges for business people on the go, and Volvo’s 360C autonomous car which functions as a bedroom, living space and work office. Plus if you think about it, besides a few niggling issues like battery power and laws around driverless cars – which by the way have already been tested by some companies on the streets of some U.S. cities and in London, the idea, while it sounds, and looks quite futuristic, it’s actually like a personal taxi or rental car that doubles as a hotel room or even a bit like an RV except no one has to take driving duty. So, beside the autonomous bit, consumers are already familiar with all the other parts – plus this is built with convenience in mind.

Aprilli have already suggested that the suite is not designed for long-distance travel but envisions it to be cheaper than regular travel and accommodation costs meaning it could be strong competitive form of inter-city traveling bringing impact on conventional transportation and hospitality industry – again something that does seem quite plausible.

While it’s early days yet, if ATS evolves beyond its concept phase, it is possible that it could revolutionize or redefine the way we use hospitality services and the way we travel.

Only time will tell.

Here’s to 2030.