What impact will robots and autonomous systems have on urban ecosystems?

February 19, 2021

The University of Leeds has coordinated a study with 170 experts from 35 countries, including E.T.S. Agronomic Engineering lecturer Luis Perez Urrestarazu. The study conclusions have just been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The researchers highlighted opportunities to improve the way green spaces are monitored and maintained and helping people to interact with and appreciate the natural world around them. Similarly, as autonomous vehicles become more widely used in cities, pollution and traffic congestion are set to fall.

But they also warn that advances in robotics and automation could be harmful to the environment. They may, for example generate new sources of waste and pollution, with potentially substantial negative implications for urban nature. Cities may have to be re-planned to provide enough space for robots and drones to operate, possibly leading to a loss of planted areas. They could also increase existing social inequalities, such as unequal access to green spaces.

In any event, robots are likely to transform many of the ways in which citizens experience and benefit from urban nature.

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