Urban Automation and Robotics


Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and automation are increasingly being applied in the infrastructure, management and policing of cities for public and private benefit. There are opportunities to support urban living, manage services more efficiently and respond to ecological turbulence but also major concerns about privacy, safety, trust, increased social control and racial profiling. 

The Urban Institute is at the forefront of international research on the restructuring of cities through new technologies of automation and its implications for urban social life. 

Our research is global in scope, with on-going empirical research in the UK, North America, Australia and Asia.

Research Questions

  • How might urban automation and robotics be understood as a distinctive socio-technical system?
  • What are the implications, opportunities and challenges for cities?
  • What sorts of governance and regulatory frameworks are needed to respond to the new era of urban robotics and automation? 


Theme Lead: Aidan While

UI members: Simon Marvin | Bei Chen

Visitors: Desiree FieldsPauline McGuirk | Noor Ahmad Basri | Rachel MacrorieAndy Lockhart  Mateja Kovacic 



Journal articles
Book chapters
  • De Hoop E, Smith A, Boon W, Macrorie R, Marvin S, & Raven R (2018) Smart urbanism in Barcelona: A knowledge politics perspective. In: Stissing Jensen J, Spaeth P and Cashmere M (eds.) The Politics of Urban Sustainability Transitions: Knowledge, Power and Governance. Chapter 3. ISBN: 9781138479654
  • Marvin, S. (2021)  The     global   urban  condition and politics   thermal metabolics - the chilling prospect of killer heat. In: M. Lancione and C. McFarlane (eds) Global Urbanism – knowledge, power and the city, Oxford: Routledge.
Reports and other outputs

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