My doctoral research with the New Political Communication Unit is an ethnographic study of public engagement with the development of autonomous vehicles in the United Kingdom. Building on over two years of research, I combine conceptual and methodological approaches from both political communication research and science and technology studies to explore the politics behind this innovation.
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 the public in the emergence of the vehicles remains an unanswered question.
Facing this, 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 ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ research and development programme and the ways in which those public are engaged by active development projects. Secondly, it critiques the function of power within this programme, 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.