Counter-Mapping the Spaces of Autonomous Driving

Authors: Luis F Alvarez Leon*, Clark University
Topics: Economic Geography, Cartography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: autonomous driving, counter-mapping, information economy, automation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article provides an account of key tensions shaping the development of autonomous driving technologies, and explores how these can open up avenues for counter-mapping the spaces produced through these navigation technologies. The design and massive commercialization of autonomous vehicles implies the production of new models of space, generated through the incorporation of technologies such as lidar scanning, machine-learning, and artificial intelligence. This production of space is bounded within the confines of the technological black boxes of the vehicles themselves, as well as the corporate black boxes of the companies that design and deploy them. However, there are key sources of tension surrounding the creation of these black boxes: those between market competitors; between the state and the private sector; and between civil society and the state, in the form of digital rights activism. This articles explores these tensions by focusing on the potential for counter-mapping across three separate aspects of the autonomous driving space-making process: (1) legislation, by examining the emergence of right-to-repair laws across the United States, beginning with the Automotive Right to Repair Law passed in Massachusetts in 2012 (2) design, specifically the emergence of open source projects for building autonomous navigation, exemplified by Udacity, a pioneer in this area, and (3) hacking, specifically interventions designed to open, critique, or disrupt autonomous driving technologies. These examinations are embedded in a political economic critique that interrogates the ownership and control over the spaces produced through autonomous driving, as well as the economic value associated with such space-making.

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