Autonomous automobilities: The social impacts of driverless vehicles



Publication Details

Bissell, D., Birtchnell, T., Elliott, A. & Hsu, E. L. (2018). Autonomous automobilities: The social impacts of driverless vehicles. Current Sociology, Online First 1-19.


Autonomous vehicles are one of the most highly anticipated technological developments of our time, with potentially wide-ranging social implications. Where dominant popular discourses around autonomous vehicles have tended to espouse a crude form of technological determinism, social scientific engagements with autonomous vehicles have tended to focus on rather narrow utilitarian dimensions related to regulation, safety or efficiency. This article argues that what is therefore largely missing from current debates is a sensitivity to the broader social implications of autonomous vehicles. The article aims to remedy this absence. Through a speculative mode, it is shown how a mobilities approach provides an ideal conceptual lens through which the broader social impacts of autonomous vehicles might be identified and evaluated. The argument is organized across four dimensions: transformations to experiences, inequalities, labour and systems. The article develops an agenda for critical sociological work on automated vehicles; and it calls on sociologists to contribute much-needed critical voices to the institutional and public debates on the development of autonomous vehicles.

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