My doctoral research with the New Political Communication Unit is a study of autonomous vehicle projects conducting public tests in the UK. This is an ethnographic study building on over 18 months of fieldwork and study, explored from recent research perspectives arising in both Political Communication and Science and Technology Studies (STS)
As the development of autonomous vehicles gathers pace in recent years, the potential societal impact of the technology is coming under ever greater scrutiny and debate. With the vehicles development in the hands of powerful technology companies and national governments, the role of citizens in the emergence of the vehicles remains uncertain at best, and absent at worst. With the development of the vehicles, legitimate questions about democratic accountability and engagement arise.
Facing this challenge, my research has three main aims. First, it seeks to understand the both: the conceptions of the public that exist within the United Kingdom’s system of ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’; and the ways in which those public are engaged by active development projects. Secondly, it critiques the function of power within this system, in terms of how the public is conceived, who conceives it, and how public engagement is defined and practiced. Thirdly, it proposes ways in which democratic practice can be further embedded within the development of autonomous vehicles, from project design to policy-work.
I was awarded the Crossland Scholarship by Royal Holloway, University of London in order to support this research. The project is co-supervised by Professor Andrew Chadwick and Professor Ben O’Loughlin.