Changing oil: self-driving vehicles and the Norwegian state
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Expectations regarding the imminent arrival of self-driving vehicles has prompted nations to embed such vehicles in policy and explore their potential through pilot projects. The article analyses interviews and document to explore the politics of self-driving vehicles in Norway. Using sociotechnical imaginaries as a theoretical starting point, the article finds that Norwegian policy and legislation frame self-driving vehicles in rather general terms, primarily citing expected economic gains and prospects of improving the transport sector. When these policies were operationalized in the transport innovation project Borealis, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration grafted the policies onto distinctively Norwegian use-cases: self-driving vehicles and associated infrastructures were envisioned to benefit the Norwegian fishing industry, have ramifications for standardization work within the European Union, and possibly foster a Norwegian high-tech industry. The prospect of a high-tech industry links self-driving vehicles to the green shift, a collectively imagined future in which the Norwegian petroleum industry has been phased out and replaced by ‘greener’ industries. In sum, self-driving vehicles are mobilized both as a desirable transport innovation and as part of a national narrative: through innovation relating to such vehicles, Norway might be able to phase out a petroleum-reliant economy while remaining an affluent nation with high levels of social welfare.