The self-driving vehicle in video advertisements
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The concept of the self-driving vehicle has been elusively speaking to our imaginations for the past decades through advertisements and popular culture. After always being seemingly at the horizon of a utopian near future, the technology suddenly became very real with Google’s blogpost on the morning of October 9 2010. Since then, just about every automotive designer such as Mercedes, Hyundai, and Tesla Motors have jumped on the technological bandwagon of developing its own self-driving vehicles. For this research on the representation of human-technological relations in self-driving vehicle advertisements, I have established a theoretical framework consisting of the works of the philosophers Martin Heidegger, Don Ihde, and Peter-Paul Verbeek under the ontological notion of postphenomenology, which have allowed me to interpret how the relations between humans and self-driving vehicles are constructed. In order to analyze how these relations are represented and conveyed to the viewer of the advertisements, through linguistics and intertextual relations, I have drawn upon parts of Norman Fairclough’s CDA model. I have focused on the framework’s dimensions of textual analysis by analyzing the corpus’ use of interactional control, interdiscursivity, cohesion, wording, and metaphors. Self-driving or driver-assisted technologies are represented as having the capability of being of great value in everyday life and traffic in terms of safety and mobility, with the added bonus of creating time for the driver to spend on other things. Currently, in a somewhat symbiotic relationship, the acting capability is represented as being capable of switching back and forth between human and technology as, during the drive, the human driver can prompt technology to take command, prompt technology to return to manual driving, or technology can prompt the human driver to take over the wheel during technical difficulties or when nearing the end of the destination. In a more distant future, the self-driving vehicle is represented as capable of delegating and interpreting all human actions in traffic, thus being able to replace the human driver entirely (and taking human driver error out of the equation). Generally speaking, the self-driving vehicle is represented as a tool for transportation to be used by human drivers for their convenience whenever they see fit during a journey. This usefulness is lost when the human driver is no longer inside the vehicle. However, unlike a traditional car, the self-driving vehicle will be able to be prompted to find itself a parking space and be hailed to a person’s current location, saving additional time. Automotive designers frame autonomous driving technologies by projecting ‘utopian’ connotations of increased safety, mobility, and freedom onto them in their advertisements. With their financial stake in mind, their biased advertisements – which only show optimal conditions for showcasing the technologies.