Automated Mobility Transitions: Governing Processes in the UK

<span title="2018-03-26">2018</span> <i title="MDPI AG"> <a target="_blank" rel="noopener" href="" style="color: black;">Sustainability</a> </i> &nbsp;
Contemporary systems of mobility are undergoing a transition towards automation. In the UK, this transition is being led by (often new) partnerships between incumbent manufacturers and new entrants, in collaboration with national governments, local/regional councils, and research institutions. This paper first offers a framework for analyzing the governance of the transition, adapting ideas from the Transition Management (TM) perspective, and then applies the framework to ongoing automated
more &raquo; ... le transition dynamics in the UK. The empirical analysis suggests that the UK has adopted a reasonably comprehensive approach to the governing of automated vehicle innovation but that this approach cannot be characterized as sufficiently inclusive, democratic, diverse and open. The lack of inclusivity, democracy, diversity and openness is symptomatic of the post-political character of how the UK's automated mobility transition is being governed. The paper ends with a call for a reconfiguration of the automated vehicle transition in the UK and beyond, so that much more space is created for dissent and for reflexive and comprehensive big picture thinking on (automated) mobility futures. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to assess the validity of such claims, counter-discourses point to the ethical, legal and adoption challenges of AVs (e.g., [3] ). This paper critically examines the governance of the transition to automated mobility, and seeks to make two contributions to the existing literature on AVs, and mobility transitions, more generally. It first proposes an analytical framework building on the Transition Management approach that draws attention to the politics of transition, and second examines the transition dynamics around AVs in the UK within the context of the global race to automation. While the UK is not alone in its interest in AV innovation, it is relatively unique given its historical dismantling of domestic vehicle manufacturing, and the renewed attention to vehicle research, development and production in the guise of national economic policy and a national Industrial Strategy [5] in recent years. To make the current system of mobility more environmentally sustainable and socially just, deep structural changes are required [6, 7] . Such systemic changes are referred to as socio-technical transitions, as changes need to occur to the overall configuration of the system, including the technologies, regulation, consumer practices, infrastructures, and cultural meanings (e.g., [8] ). Since the transformation of socio-technical systems involves a range of actors (businesses, policymakers, consultants, interest groups, consumers, and civil society), is characterized by uncertainty, and occurs over long timeframes, traditional governance processes are often unsuitable [9] . Reflexive governance approaches are required as they more usefully balance interests of state, market and societal actors. Transition Management (TM, hereafter), is one such reflexive approach, which provides an analytical framework to examine the ways through which transitions can be guided. The TM cycle focuses on four types of practical activity-strategic, tactical, operational, and reflexive-and suggests that by better understanding 'the origin, nature and dynamics' of transition processes, actors will be able to both anticipate and adapt, with potential to influence the speed and direction of transition ([9], p. 49). Yet, the thinking on transition has still to develop comprehensive understandings of the multiple and intersecting role(s) of power and politics of/in TM [10] [11] [12] . With some important modifications pertaining to the politics of transition dynamics, the concepts and ideas arising from TM can be used as a heuristic framework for the interpretation and evaluation of currently unfolding governance processes in automated mobility. The ability of automated vehicles to contribute to a systemic sustainability transition is as yet unclear and can easily be contested, but the complexities and uncertainties arising from these technologies can still fruitfully be analyzed using TM. Accordingly, in this paper, we draw on TM and writing on what has become known as the post-political condition [13, 14] to analyze automation transition dynamics. After introducing some key debates in TM and post-political literature, we draw from TM concepts (strategic, tactical, operational, reflexive) to examine the governance of vehicle automation in the UK. We point to the lack of inclusivity, democracy, diversity and openness in the AV transition, which is symptomatic of its post-political character. We conclude by calling for greater consideration of the political dimensions of innovation and transition processes, including in AV innovation in the UK.
<span class="external-identifiers"> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener noreferrer" href="">doi:10.3390/su10040956</a> <a target="_blank" rel="external noopener" href="">fatcat:aqsxtnep75bf3esbkdspbbraoq</a> </span>
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