Autonomous Mobility Justice: Building Critical Awareness of a Sociotechnical Transition

Pascale-L. Blyth

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The self-driving vehicle (SDV) represents a new era of vehicle systems, where part or all of thedriver's actions may be removed by means of a combination of new technologies. As data reshapestransport networks and geographies by creating new practices and markets, a sociotechnicaltransition to autonomous mobility has complex social, technical, economic and politicaldimensions, presenting urban planners, local and regional governments, research organizationsand society with unique challenges in mobility justice. This dissertation investigates autonomous mobility justice. Drawing from the body of researchon sociotechnical transitions, it investigates the transition from the perspective of the diverseecology of autonomous mobility intermediaries involved in or concerned by the transition inFinland, and its capital, Helsinki---representing the result of a Finnish innovation policy promotingthe development of digitalization and "smart economy". Inspired by a phronetic research approachin planning, and a revealing Danish investigation of shared mobility as a sociotechnical transition,the empirical part of the dissertation consists of 30 semistructured interviews with 31 Finnishintermediaries. Drawing from a theoretical frame that includes political theory of technology and a geographicalinterpretation of the Foucauldian conceptualization of modern power, a thematic analysis revealsthe power relations between self-driving vehicle technology, the built environment and institutionaland human actors in the transition. The dissertation finds the need for an expanded technological design horizon, that encompassesthe societal implications of the emerging technology. From the empirical enquiry, it finds that thesociotechnical transition may inscribe spatial rationalities of government and moralities on thebuilt environment that are indicative of mobility injustice. Moreover, it finds that while thetechnology has several domination transcripts, other intermediaries have expressed hiddentranscripts of resistance. The implications for planners and policy-makers are that autonomousvehicle technology may reshape the built environment, space and society in inperceptible waysbeyond just the street level.
Translated title of the contributionAutonomous Mobility Justice - Building Critical Awareness of a Sociotechnical Transition
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Mäntysalo, Raine, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-3946-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3947-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • self-driving vehicle
  • technology
  • power
  • intermediaries
  • spatial rationality


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