The politics of autonomous vehicles: A call for abstracts

Research workshop
16-17 December 2019, University College London

On 16-17 December 2019, the ESRC Driverless Futures? project is holding a workshop to bring together a small number of the most interesting social researchers looking at the politics of ‘autonomous vehicles’. We hope to be able to accommodate about 15-20 people, all of whom will be expected to give presentations and write papers for publication after the workshop.

Despite the terminology, social scientists know that these technologies will be far from autonomous. They will be shaped by human interests and expectations, and future sociotechnical systems will be entangled in social worlds (infrastructures, rules, norms, behaviours, institutions and more) in complex and possibly unpredictable ways.  

Our aim with this workshop is to bring new research and thinking to our understanding of likely, desirable or undesirable futures involving self-driving vehicles and think about the social pathways towards them. The workshop will be invitation-only, with the aim of producing a journal special issue. We invite applications for original research that can be presented at the workshop and lead to published papers. 

Confirmed speakers: 

  • Marina Jirotka, Professor of Human Centred Computing, University of Oxford 
  • Peter Norton, Associate Professor of History, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia 
  • Milos Mladenovic, Assistant Professor, Transportation Engineering, Aalto University 

Questions or topics might include:

  • What’s behind current AV imaginaries? What’s left out?  
  • Who could/should benefit? Who could/should decide? 
  • How should AVs be governed in the public interest? 
  • How autonomous are ‘autonomous vehicles’? 
  • What are the politics of machine learning/artificial intelligence for AVs?  
  • How can debates about and developments in AV innovation be made more diverse?  

Proposals may come from science and technology studies, transport studies, human-machine interaction, anthropology, sociology, information studies, social history, geography or other disciplines.  

If you would like to join the workshop, please submit an abstract of no more than 200 words before the deadline: 12 August. We will notify participants at the start of September. We have a limited travel and accommodation budget. If you require support, please indicate this on the form.  

This event will take place in central London, with an exact location to be confirmed. 

Co-organisers: Jack Stilgoe and Tom Cohen, University College London 

Background reading from the Driverless Futures? project 

Cohen, T., Stilgoe, J. and Cavoli, C. (2018) Reframing the governance of automotive automation: insights from UK stakeholder workshops, Journal of Responsible Innovation 

Stilgoe, J. (2018). Machine learning, social learning and the governance of self-driving carsSocial studies of science48(1), 25-56. 

Stilgoe, J. (2018) Seeing like a Tesla – How can we anticipate self-driving worlds?Glocalism, issue 3 

Winfield, A., & Jirotka, M. (2018). Ethical governance is essential to building trust in robotics and AI systemsPhilosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences