​Will Autonomous Vehicles Breed 'Spam Cars'?

Anyone that's traveled to Vegas in the past decade has seen them. Trucks carrying massive billboards for gentlemen's clubs, shooting ranges, and way-off-the-Strip "services". Now remove the driver from the situation. Yup. It's spam IRL.

In a smart Reddit thread about one possible use for self-driving vehicles – beyond the boilerplate car-sharing, congestion reduction, and mobility services – comes this from CombustibleCitrus:

If driverless cars become common, I wonder if there's the possibility that some types of unmanned vehicles could become a nuisance. Will our neighborhoods be patrolled by driverless ice cream trucks, food trucks, vending machine trucks and google street view cars all day long? What about driverless billboard trucks? What's to stop them from clogging up the highways during rush hour?

While we're well over a decade away from unmanned cars bouncing around neighborhoods and city centers, once that happens – like nearly all technological innovations – there's a race to the bottom.

"One man's obnoxious rolling billboard will be another's smart, location- and observer-driven expression protected by freedom of speech," Chunka Mui, author of The New Killer Apps, told Vice.

But it won't be all about cars advertising Russian brides and wang pills. A rolling CVS could deliver toilet paper and toothpaste; the Whole Foods-mobile could bring you that one ingredient you need for dinner; and the bar that advertises happy hour beer in a boot could pick you up from work and then drop you off at home once you're suitably sauced.

Right now, buying and servicing a car and hiring a human driver to do all those things is cost prohibitive. And even with the adoption of self-driving technology, that cost/benefit equation probably isn't going to shift much in 10 or 20 year's time. Then again, the market always finds a way – particularly when it comes to shoving ads in your face.