Promise of the obsolete: expectations for and experiments with self-driving vehicles in Norway
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy. 2020, 16 (1), 37-47. 10.1080/15487733.2020.1765677
This article explores the expectations associated with self-driving vehicles and the role of public trials in testing and upscaling this technology. Using a two-pronged empirical approach, we first analyze public responses to draft legislation circulated in preparation for Norway’s 2017 Act Relating to Testing of Self-Driving Vehicles. Drawing on the sociology of expectations, we investigate the anticipated benefits of self-driving technology and identify a possible tension between calls for a flexible legal framework and concerns regarding the thoroughness and purpose of testing. Thereafter, the article analyzes interviews with actors conducting the first public trial under the new law, drawing on literature on upscaling and public experimentation to investigate the effects of societally embedded testbeds. We argue that public testing influences the understanding of self-driving technology and its relation to traffic. Additionally, the analysis shows how these understandings enter processes of policymaking, lawmaking, and technology development, indicating that actors conducting testing have been granted significant influence over current institutional understandings and future technical requirements for self-driving vehicles. We conclude that as trial experiences mold current understandings of autonomous transport, companies conducting testing guide expectations toward specific self-driving futures, thus rendering these futures more probable than others.