Robots, often used as a catch-all term for a wide range of machines and systems powered by automation and artificial intelligence, are already changing the way people live and work. Today’s robots are working in manufacturing and logistics, rather than impacting everyday life for urban residents. However, that could change, as researchers and engineers look at ways automation and AI could change life beyond factories and warehouses.
1. Reducing Congestion
Public transportation, both above and below ground, already uses AI for smarter routes. Cars, trains, subways, busses, and drones could someday work hand-in-hand to alleviate the traffic congestion often found in large cities. Autonomous vehicles (including private cars, taxis, and buses) could communicate with each other and citywide sensors to navigate from place to place more efficiently. Pickups and deliveries via drone could further reduce traffic jams.
2. Streamlining Construction
Every piece of the construction process, from planning and building to inspections and repairs, could be assisted by robots. AI can help city planners, civil engineers, and architects make better decisions before breaking ground. Robots could also be doing the physical building, as well as repairs—especially underground.
3. Providing Resources
Robots could offer efficiencies that make addressing urban inequalities easier. For example, relying on AI could make public transportation more efficient for low-income commuters. Robots could also address issues closer to home, such as digital equity, social care, and food accessibility through unmanned stores, redistributed food waste, urban farms, and mobile markets.
4. Redefining Tourism
Tourists arriving at the visitor center, their hotel, or even a popular landmark could be greeted by customer service bots, much like those Tokyo planned to use for the 2020 Olympics. These robots would be able to communicate in many languages on a huge variety of topics. Similar technology could be used to guide autonomous vehicles from site to site, similar to today’s hop-on, hop-off tours.