Governance cultures and sociotechnical imaginaries of self-driving vehicle technology

Comparative analysis of Finland, UK and Germany

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Abstract

As an emerging technology, the potential deployment of self-driving vehicles (SDVs) in cities is attributed with significant uncertainties and anticipated consequences requiring responsible governance of innovation processes. Despite a growing number of studies on policies and governance arrangements for managing the introduction of SDVs, there is a gap in understanding about country-specific governance strategies and approaches. This chapter addresses this gap by presenting a comparative analysis of SDV-related policy documents in Finland, UK, and Germany, three countries which are actively seeking to promote the introduction of SDVs and which have distinct administrative traditions. Our analytical framework is based on the set of premises about technology as a complex sociotechnical phenomenon, operationalized using governance cultures and sociotechnical imaginaries concepts. Our comparative policy document analysis focuses on the assumed roles for SDV technology, the identified domains and mechanisms of governance, and the assumed actors responsible for steering the development process. The results highlight similarities in pro-automation values across three different countries, while also uncovering important differences outside the domain of traditional transport policy instruments. In addition, the results identify different types of potential technological determinism, which could restrict opportunities for responsiveness and divergent visions of mobility futures in Europe. Concluding with a warning against further depolitization of technological development and a dominant focus on economic growth, we identify several necessary directions for further developing governance and experimentation processes.