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Masculinity and Autonomous Vehicles

A Degendered or Resegregated Future System of Automobility?

Dag Balkmar and Ulf Mellström

This article addresses the anthropomorphization and interpellative experience of cars and trucks, in order to meet future mobility challenges. Autonomous vehicles offer an emancipatory opportunity within a wider movement of degendering and regendering motor vehicles. We argue that autonomous vehicles can challenge the foundations of a gendered economy founded on masculinity, speed, pleasure, and embodiment. Rather than thinking in terms of a process of demasculinization, this article anticipates a regendering and resegregation through which certain forms of masculine gendered economies of pleasure will lose ground and others will gain. A core question in this article asks who will be in the driver’s seat of future systems of automobility as the control of the vehicle is gradually being transferred from the driver to digital control systems and intelligent roads.

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Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder

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 diff erences, this comment off ers a brief commentary on how they might be addressed, focusing on material rhetoric and vehicle design.

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Kathleen Frazer Oswald

Th is article argues that smart transportation—understood as convergences of communication and transportation infrastructure to facilitate movement—has long been manifested in what John Urry has described as nexus systems, or those that require many elements to work synchronously.1 Understanding smart infrastructures as those aligning with twenty-first-century sensibilities concerning technology, convenience, safety, and security, I demonstrate a longer trajectory for this seemingly new trend in three cases: (1) the synchronization of the train with the telegraph, (2) the organization of early automobility, and (3) information-rich/connected automobility and the driverless car. Rethinking smart infrastructure historically reveals a long-existing tendency rather than a new one to manage movement via communication technologies.