The Myth of the Autonomous Vehicle.

Jack Stilgoe
University College London

‘Autonomous’ vehicles promise to change the world in profound ways. The suggested benefits include safety, efficiency, accessibility and improved urban environments. However researchers and others have been quick to raise questions about responsibility for crashes, safe testing and possible wider ramifications for transport systems. In a discussion that has been dominated by science, engineering and narrow questions of ethics there is a need to draw attention to the old questions of politics: Who wins? Who loses? Who decides? Who pays? From the perspective of social science, these technologies look far from autonomous. Their development will be steered by human interests and expectations and future sociotechnical systems will be entangled in social worlds (infrastructures, rules, norms, behaviours, institutions and more) in complex and possibly unpredictable ways.

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