Cars and Contemporary Communication| Maps and the Autonomous Vehicle as a Communication Platform

Rowan Wilken, Julian Thomas


Over the past two decades, there has been growing awareness of and critical interest in the convergence of information and communication technologies and automobiles. Writing in 2004, Mike Featherstone suggests that the “automobile becomes a new form of communications platform with a complex set of possibilities.” In this article, we argue that the notion of the car as a communication platform continues to form a productive way of thinking about autonomous vehicles. The argument we develop is that the dual roles of data acquisition and management, and local processing are integral to any understanding of the contemporary autonomous vehicle’s “machinic complex.” Both of these things are strongly associated with autonomy and the transformation of cars into decision-making machines. We use the example of mapping to argue that these capacities are not unique to the emerging technologies of autonomous vehicles; however, they are essential to them, with significant implications not only for their capabilities as communications platforms, but also more generally for their governance and political economy.


autonomous vehicles, communication platform, maps

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