This special section on “Degendering the Driver” explores how gender intervenes in the potential shift from a driver-centered to a driverless car culture. It focuses on representations of imagined futures—prototypes, media images, and popular discourses of driverless cars. Following the tradition of feminist cultural studies of technoscience, we ask in our introduction how these new techno-imaginaries of autonomous driving are gendered and racialized. We aim to explore if the future user of an autonomous car is gendered or degendered in the current media discourse. The four articles explore what kinds of images are used, what promises are made, and how the discourse about autonomous driving is influenced by gendered norms. Some authors emphasize that self-driving vehicles could encourage pluralized forms of masculinity. Nonetheless, all authors conclude that driverless cars alone will not degender the driver but rather encourage a multiplication of gendered and racialized technologies of mobility.
Autonomous Driving and the Transformation of Car Cultures
Jutta Weber and Fabian Kröger
Discursive Assertions of Mobility Futures
The car has been identified as an element of modern identities, interwoven also with gender relations. The masculinity of the automobile subject draws on the steering and controlling of the car as a technological object. Thus, driverless cars potentially call into question the gendering of the automobile subject. With the aim to assess this potential degendering, in this article I analyze two very different visions of driverless automobility. The focus is placed on the imagined users, the sociospatial context, and its gendered dimensions. I then reflect on the status of the videos, elaborating on their impact on the future of (auto)mobility and their meaning for mobility research. Gendering of cars, then, is seen as an element of a deeper socioeconomic order and its inherent power relations. Thus, future genderings cannot be simply read off technological visions but will instead develop in unforeseeable social contestations.
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.
An Essay Exploring Dominant Values and Representations of the Driver in Driverless Technology
This article presents two representations of masculinity based on media images found in television and online promotion related to motor vehicles. The dominant image in much advertising is the bursting, thrusting power of what I refer to as “combustion” masculinity, identified as active engagement and connected with significant road trauma. The less visible, fluid power found in professional driving that I refer to as “hydraulic” masculinity draws on precision and awareness of the surroundings rather than aggressive force. Social analysis of electric and driverless vehicle promotion and media discussion indicate that moving to electric and fully automated driving requires overcoming the essential contradiction of combustion power, as it is associated with cars and freedom. Alternative modes and images of being mobile must be highlighted in order to challenge the combustion image. Fundamentally, activity should be ascribed to all mobile persons, and policy and mobility systems should be designed to maximize mobility for all.
Michael K. Bess, David Lipset, Kudzai Matereke, Stève Bernardin, Katharine Bartsch, Harry Oosterhuis, Samuel Müller, Frank Schipper, Benjamin D'Harlingue and Katherine Roeder
Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox, Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015), 264 pp., 16 illustrations, $26.95 (paperback)
Noel B. Salazar and Kiran Jayaram, eds., Keywords of Mobility: Critical Engagements (New York: Berghahn Books, 2016), 196 pp., $90 (hardback)
Lutz Koepnick, On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 336 pp., 43 illustrations, $40 (hardback)
Gérard Duc, Olivier Perroux, Hans-Ulrich Schiedt, and François Walter, eds., Histoire des transports et de la mobilité: Entre concurrence modale et coordination (de 1918 à nos jours) [Transport and mobility history: Between modal competition and coordination (from 1918 to the present)] (Neuchâtel: Editions Alphil-Presses Universitaires Suisses, 2014), 462 pp., $54 (paperback)
Kimberley Skelton, The Paradox of Body, Building and Motion in Seventeenth- Century England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), 204 pp., 60 illustrations, £70 (hardback)
Ruth Oldenziel, Martin Emanuel, Adri Albert de la Bruhèze, and Frank Veraart, eds., Cycling Cities: The European Experience—Hundred Years of Policy and Practice (Eindhoven: Foundation for the History of Technology, 2016), 256 pp., 100 illustrations. €37.50 (hardback)
Glen Norcliffe, Critical Geographies of Cycling: History, Political Economy and Culture (London: Routledge, 2015), 290 pp., 24 illustrations, $119.95 (hardback)
Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016), 328 pp., 31 illustrations, $29.95 (hardback)
Mathieu Flonneau, Léonard Laborie, and Arnaud Passalacqua, eds., Les transports de la démocratie: Approche historique des enjeux politiques de la mobilité [The transport of democracy: A historical approach to the political issues of mobility] (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2014), 224 pp., €19 (paperback)
Erik M. Conway, Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015), 416 pp., 21 illustrations, $32.95 (paperback)
Hariton Pushwagner, Soft City (New York: New York Review Books, 2016), 160 pp., $35 (hardback)