As we encounter the dramatic imagery and predictions about self-driving cars that appear almost daily in the media it can become easy to think of automated driving as being a revolutionary new experience. But is it? Why is it that we can drive to work and arrive realizing that we were lost in thought the whole way there? Why can we feel comfortable catching up with an old friend while hurtling down the highway in a steel and glass box on wheels? Sometimes it can come to feel as though the way we are driving is already automatic.
Through the concepts of practice, perception, and embodiment this book analyzes material collected through interviews and drives conducted in Sweden and the United States as well as historical materials from the early and “golden” ages of the American automobile. In doing so it seeks to use cultural analysis in order to shed light both on the automation of driving in historical and contemporary everyday practice, and on how these encounters with automation can shape how a drive is experienced and how a driver might understand new forms of automation in the car.
Christopher Martin is an ethnologist holding a B.Sc. in Anthropology from Ball State University and an M.A. in Applied Cultural Analysis from Lund University. Shifting Gears is his doctoral dissertation.