Cars and Contemporary Communications| Stabilizing/Destabilizing the Driverless City: Speculative Futures and Autonomous Vehicles

Laura Forlano


This article extends theories about sociotechnical imaginaries by analyzing the case of autonomous vehicles (AVs), which suggest a future when humans may no longer need to drive. Drawing on Jasanoff’s notion of sociotechnical imaginaries, this article analyzes the ways that this techno-determinist future is created through the claims and actions of corporate and government actors, stabilized in physical spaces at engineering test beds and on urban streets, embedded in popular culture through automotive manufacturers’ advertisements, and extended globally as part of the push toward smart cities. However, rather than engaging in merely descriptive or normative discussions of AVs, this project focuses on speculative and generative interventions. Based on a one-year, multidisciplinary project on The Driverless City, this article argues that speculative design interventions offer ways of resisting, disrupting, and destabilizing the normative visions of linear technological progress toward an inevitable autonomous future. This article builds on the growing interest in the field of communications in experimental methodologies for studying the social aspects of emerging technologies.



autonomous vehicles, design methods, futures, speculative design, cities

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