Designing cities with AI: Should we?

A long view down a street with houses and cars on each side.Photographing street maintenance issues is not new, but taking photos of streets and rating them as good or bad is a relatively new idea. Now it can be done through artificial intelligence (AI). Facelift is a new AI system that allows urban planers to redesign the look of city streets. But where is Google Street View in all this? 

A FastCompany article explains how volunteers from 162 countries rated Google street images. Then the data was put through the AI process. The results were obvious – plazas are beautiful and construction sites aren’t. The next step was to create an interactive tool to generate before and after.  images – Facelift. Urban planners can use this tool to improve the design of existing places. But there is a question about this: is it beautification or gentrification? 

The title of the FastCompany article is, AI can now design cities. Should we let it?  The article concludes:

“For now, the biggest insights I see lurking in the interactive map is that a city block doesn’t need whimsical forest paths or fancy botanical gardens to be desirable. It just needs people living there with diverse buildings, trees providing shade, and designated places to walk. You don’t need an urban planning degree to understand how these simple ideas make a city so much more appealing, but then again, FaceLift’s pretty pictures sure do demonstrate the point as clear as day.”