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Building the UK vision of a driverless future: a Parliamentary Inquiry case study

Tennant, Chris, Howard, Susan and Stares, Sally ORCID: 0000-0003-4697-0347 (2021) Building the UK vision of a driverless future: a Parliamentary Inquiry case study. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8 (1). ISSN 2662-9992

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Identification Number: 10.1057/s41599-021-00882-y


The UK Government has endorsed the case for autonomous vehicle (AV) technology and its economic benefits in its industrial strategies since 2013. In late 2016 the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Lords (the legislature’s upper chamber) conducted an Inquiry into the policy. We conduct a content analysis of the text corpus of the Inquiry. Drawing from theories of sociotechnical change we explore how it contributes to building a vision of a future AV world embedded in a national economic and technological project. The technology is framed as a solution to societal grand challenges and the Inquiry corpus is dominated by actors committed to the project. Alternative visions, including sceptical interpretations, are present in the corpus, but rare, reflecting the selection process for contributions to the Inquiry. Predominantly, the corpus represents the public as deficient: dangerous drivers, unaware of promised benefits and unduly anxious about the unfamiliar. Their views are marginal in this Parliamentary Inquiry’s findings. AV technology is one of several possible means to pursue wider mobility policy goals of greater safety, affordability, access and sustainability. Our analysis suggests that the pursuit of an AV future risks becoming a goal in itself instead of a means to these broader societal goals.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2021 09:24
Last Modified: 23 May 2024 22:36

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