Incumbent-led transitions and civil society: Autonomous vehicle policy and consumer organizations in the United States
Hess, David J.
The transition to connected and autonomous (or automated) vehicles (CAVs) in the United States is used to explore the role of civil society in the acceleration and deceleration of sociotechnical transitions. This is an "incumbent-led transition," which occurs when large industrial corporations in one or more industries lead a systemic technological change. This type of transition may generate public concerns about risk and uncertainty, which can be expressed and mobilized by civil society organizations (CSOs). In turn, CSOs may also attempt to decelerate the transition process in order to develop better regulation and to change technology design. Based on an analysis of CSO statements in the public sphere and media reports on CAVs in the U.S., the political strategy of CSOs is examined to improve understanding of the role of civil society in incumbent-led transitions. The analysis indicates that the strategy includes four main aspects: articulating an alternative political goal (slower introduction of advanced autonomous vehicles and more rapid introduction of existing driver-assisted technology), engaging multiple targets or venues of action (different government units and the private sector), forming and expanding a broad coalition, and selecting effective tactics of influence (lobbying, media outreach, and research involving public opinion polls).