Autonomous Vehicles and Gender

A Commentary

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Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder Oregon State University

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Several recent surveys report a gap between how men and women feel about autonomous vehicles. While such binaries may have limited usefulness, female respondents rank autonomous technology as less trustworthy and are less likely than men to report feeling safe in an autonomous car. This comment frames such results within the articles for this special section on autonomous vehicles, showing how reported gender divisions are resultant from discursive formations that frame user experience and individual performed experiences. These discursive-material dynamics generate persuasive configurations of power that thoughtful research and action in autonomous vehicle development could help mitigate. After summarizing survey differences, this comment offers a brief commentary on how they might be addressed, focusing on material rhetoric and vehicle design.

Contributor Notes

Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder is Assistant Professor in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University, where he teaches courses in rhetoric, new media, and technical and science writing. His research has appeared in Technical Communication, the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Kairos, College English, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly, among other journals. His monograph, Communicating Technology and Mobility (Routledge, 2016), invents and applies a material rhetoric framework for studying mobility technologies. E-mail:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies


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