Shifting Gears: Automated Driving on the Eve of Autonomous Drive

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The compelling images and promises attached to autonomous drive vehicles can easily create an impression that one can speak of a radical distinction between a self-driving future and a manual-driving present. Yet today’s drivers can already refer to their everyday driving as being experienced as though on ‘auto-pilot’, in which they are able to drive their cars while lost in things such as daydreams, conversations, or plans for their day ahead. This thesis aims to use cultural analysis in order to investigate this phenomenon of the automation of driving in everyday practice and the manner in which it shapes how drives can be experienced.

The thesis analyzes historical and contemporary ethnographic material, collected in both Sweden and the United States, primarily through the theoretical concepts of practice, perception, and embodiment. In seeking to understand a driver’s encounters with automation in their vehicle it does not lose sight of the fact that driving occurs both within a social context as well as within a distinct space which is both framed and experienced through the materiality of the car. Beginning with a look at how the understanding of automation in driving has developed through an incremental process over time, the thesis progresses to an exploration of how drivers today can come to drive automatically and how such a capacity to drive automatically can shape their experience of driving as well as the significance that it holds for them.

Such an analysis seeks to contribute towards furthering an understanding both of the manner in which everyday practices can become embodied as a form of tacit knowledge as well as the capacity of mobility systems to change, and be changed by, the individuals who engage with them. It argues that a driver’s existing experiences with automatic driving can, and will, shape their orientation towards any new forms of automated driving technology which they encounter in future use.


  • Christopher Martin
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ethnology


  • automation, driving, cars, practice, perception, embodiment, flow, space, skill, orientation, routine, technology
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Thomas O'dell, Supervisor
  • Berg, Martin, Assistant supervisor, External person
  • Fors, Vaike, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date2020 Apr 17
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-985459-4-4
Electronic ISBNs978-91-985459-5-1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2020-04-17 Time: 13:15 Place: LUX C121 External reviewer Name: Eldh, Christer Title: universitetslektor Affiliation: Lunds universitet ---

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