According to one definition, “a robot is an autonomous machine capable of sensing its environment, carrying out computations to make decisions, and performing actions in the real world.” Such a definition would include many urban systems that are not normally associated with robotics, such as lighting and thermal comfort systems in smart buildings and sensor-driven traffic signals on roads.
The lines are blurring between autonomous machines and the increasingly intelligent environments in which they are embedded. Automotive engineers have developed standard definitions for levels of automation in autonomous vehicles from “full human control” to “fully autonomous control;” but the third locus of control—the intelligent environment—is less frequently considered to be part of the story. Practical engineering concerns regarding which computing to do at the edge (in the robot) or centrally (in the environment) place very real constraints on the feasible degree of autonomy for a given robotic functionality.
Ethical concerns regarding the preservation of human autonomy in smart environments that also host robots make this an important topic for humanity’s urban future.
How does the responsibility of the designer change when the human is inside the robot (as in a building or vehicle) compared to when the human is located outside and perhaps adjacent to it? What urban governance structures are needed to preserve human dignity and an ability to make choices in a city with ubiquitous automation? Who is responsible when intelligent urban systems fail or get hacked? Which aspects of ubiquitous urban intelligence should be regarded as infrastructural versus open to marketplace competition or factional conflict? This presentation unpacks the contradictions in urban robotics, suggests how to avoid doing harm to humans, and encourages critical discussion about which version of the intelligent urban future we are building.
This SSIT Guest Lecture was presented by Prof Clinton Andrews, Rutgers University / President of IEEE SSIT at a Chapter Meeting organised by IEEE UK and Ireland SSIT Chapter and SSIT IST-Africa SIGHT on 01 December 2022.
Prof. Clinton J. Andrews presents "Anticipating Urban Robotics". This lecture unpacks the contradictions in urban robotics, suggests how to avoid doing harm to humans, and encourages critical discussion about which version of the intelligent urban future we are building.