Urban Automation

Urban automation is expanding through developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, sensors, autonomous vehicles and investment in urban control centres. This offers opportunities to support urban living, use infrastructures more efficiently and respond to turbulence. It also raises issues about trust, control and automated segregation.

The theme seeks to understand how innovations in autonomous systems and robotics shape urban life and infrastructures.

Research Questions

–    Can urban automation be understood as a distinctive socio-technical field and what are its potential urban implications?
–    How are experiments in automation and robotics shaping governance processes across different domains of urban life?
–    What forms of automated citizenship are developing and how do they shape human capabilities and experiences?
–    Is expansion in non-human decision-making creating more adaptable or centralised logics of urban control?


January 8, 2018 in Urban Automation

Drones/Robotics and Development Priorities in Africa: Transformative Infrastructure or Digital Colonisation?

The British Academy has recently announced the successful applicants under Knowledge Frontiers: International Interdisciplinary Research Projects 2017. This programme will support nine interdisciplinary research projects geared towards producing policy-relevant findings and improving the welfare of people in developing countries. The projects aim to engage…
Read More
October 4, 2017 in Urban Automation

‘Geographies of Urban Automation’ – Call for Papers: AAG 2018 – New Orleans

Call for Papers: AAG 2018 – New Orleans Geographies of Urban Automation Federico Cugurullo – Trinity College Dublin Simon Marvin – University of Sheffield Rob Raven – University of Utrecht Alan Wiig – University of Massachusetts, Boston Call for Papers…
Read More


Knowing: The KNOWledge politics of experimentING with smart urbanism: Comparative work on urban automation over 8 European cities over three years within Sheffield and with European partners (3 yrs from Sept 2016, ORA-ESRC funded).

Governance of Urban Sustainability Transitions (GUST): Advancing the role of the living lab (3 yrs from 2014, JPI Urban Europe).



July 14, 2017 in Urban Automation Event

4 September 2017 – Rise of the Automated City – Public Lecture

Date: Monday 4th September 2017 Time: 5:30pm – 7.00pm Venue: ICOSS Lecture Theatre (1st floor), Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences (ICOSS), 219 Portobello, Sheffield, S1 4DP; followed by a reception in ICOSS foyer (opposite). From driverless cars, to delivery robots, digitised homes and networks of…
Read More
September 13, 2016 in Urban Automation Event

5-6 September 2017 – Urban Automation/Automated Cities: Developing a Critical Research Agenda, International workshop

University of Sheffield and University of Amsterdam Sheffield, United Kingdom, 5-6th September 2017 Organisers: Simon Marvin, Aidan While, Rachel Macrorie, Andy Lockhart –Urban Institute, University of Sheffield. Together with colleagues from Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam. There is…
Read More


International network of the German Academy of Spatial Research and Planning (ARL): 3 year working group (from 2016) on “Smart grids – Smart cities”.

Future Cities Catapult: Expert Advisory Group

ESRC international network (INCUT)final meeting on smart and sustainability (Sept 2016 in Sheffield)

‘Daily life, digital technologies and energy demand’ Early Career Researcher network – International 2-day workshop & webinar series led to a co-edited working paper collection, and panel session at the Beyond Balance Conference (London), as part of EPSRC network funding awarded by the Balance Network.


Estimated value in billions of global market for smart urban systems by 2020


Numbers of connected devices are forecast to grow globally from 10bn in 2014, to up to 50bn by 2020.


Number of people who voluntarily wear an electronic tracking device such as a smartphone


of admin/support services jobs and 72% of transport and storage roles at ‘high risk’ of automation.