AI can do urban planning better than human, study finds

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An advanced AI-based urban planning system developed by a team from Tsinghua University in China has showcased its ability to surpass human experts in developing urban planning designs.

The study, detailed in Nature Computational Science, signifies a major stride in harnessing AI to shape future cities by optimizing livability and environmental sustainability.

Traditionally, cities evolved organically with urban planners and engineers addressing immediate needs, often leading to suboptimal results due to a lack of comprehensive planning.

However, contemporary urban planning endeavors to rationalize this process, considering factors like livability and pollution controls, transforming urban planning into a sophisticated science.

With growing complexities and variables in urban development, there is an increasing need for advanced solutions.

Development of AI-based Urban Planning System

The researchers at Tsinghua University developed an AI system grounded in the 15-minute concept, a model that emphasizes accessibility to essential services within 15 minutes from residences, optimizing quality of life and minimizing pollution.

The AI system was trained with existing human-made plans and numerous design features considered beneficial, including parks, green spaces, bike paths, and entertainment venues.

Testing and Outcomes

The AI system was initially tasked with designing a small community in a 3×3 grid city block, allowing researchers to refine the system based on the outcomes.

Eventually, the system’s capability was expanded to design larger developments. The designs generated by the AI system not only matched the quality of human-created plans but, in many instances, surpassed them.

The system demonstrated a drastic reduction in the time required for creating designs, from hours by humans to seconds by the AI.

Role and Impact of AI in Urban Planning

While the AI system developed demonstrates remarkable efficiency and efficacy, the researchers clarify that it is not intended to substitute human urban planners.

Instead, it aims to alleviate the burden of mundane aspects of urban planning from human experts, enabling them to concentrate on broader, conceptual elements of urban development.

This synergistic approach between AI and human insight can significantly enhance the quality and sustainability of urban planning, paving the way for more liveable and environmentally-friendly urban spaces.


The innovative AI-based urban planning system from Tsinghua University marks a significant advancement in urban development science.

By surpassing human experts in designing optimal and sustainable urban spaces, it holds the potential to reshape the future of cities globally.

This development is not about replacing human expertise but augmenting it, focusing on creating cities that are more attuned to the needs of their residents and the environment.

The integration of AI in urban planning is poised to become a cornerstone in the development of future cities, reflecting a blend of efficiency, sustainability, and enhanced quality of life.

The research findings can be found in Nature Computational Science.

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