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

Tennant, C., Howard, S. & Stares, S. 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, 204. doi: 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.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, Springer Nature. DOI: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Publisher Keywords: Science, technology and society, Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
T Technology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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