Robots Will Make Leeds the First Self-Repairing City

Emiko Jozuka at Motherboard: “Researchers in Britain want to make the first “self-repairing” city by 2035. How will they do this? By creating autonomous repair robots that patrol the streets and drainage systems, making sure your car doesn’t dip into a pothole, and that you don’t experience any gas leaks.

“The idea is to create a city that behaves almost like a living organism,” said Raul Fuentes, a researcher at the School of Civil Engineering at Leeds University, who is working on the project. “The robots will act like white cells that are able to identify bacteria or viruses and attack them. It’s kind of like an immune system.”

The £4.2 million ($6.4 million) national infrastructure project is in collaboration with Leeds City Council and the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructures and Cities (UKCRIC). The aim is to create a fleet of robot repair workers who will live in Leeds city, spot problems, and sort them out before they become even bigger ones by 2035, said Fuentes. The project is set to launch officially in January 2016, he added.

For their five-year project—which has a vision that extends until 2050—the researchers will develop robot designs and technologies that focus on three main areas. The first is to create drones that can perch on high structures and repair things like street lamps; the second is to develop drones that can autonomously spot when a pothole is about to form and zone in and patch that up before it worsens; and the third is to develop robots that will live in utility pipes so they can inspect, repair, and report back to humans when they spot an issue.

“The robots will be living permanently in the city, and they’ll be able to identify issues before they become real problems,” explained Fuentes. The researchers are working on making the robots autonomous, and want them to be living in swarms or packs where they can communicate with one another on how best they could get the repair job done….(More)