A survey by Euroconsumers reveals that consumers think artificial intelligence can help cities to deliver services such as lighting, waste, public transport and traffic management more efficiently.
Consumers view artificial intelligence as offering a number of opportunities to improve life in cities, according to research, including more efficient use of lighting and other key services such as waste management.
A survey of consumers in Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Brazil also found that cities remain attractive as a place to live in despite the Covid pandemic.
Attitudes to city living
The research was carried out by Euroconsumers, which brings together five national consumer organisations and gives a voice to more than 1.5 million people. It found that 11 per cent of professionally active EU respondents (six per cent of Brazilians) moved during the pandemic, only 12 per cent of which moved to a rural area.
Asked if they were likely to move to another area in the next three years, only 10 per cent (EU) said they were very likely to, among which only 14 per cent said this would be to a rural area and a quarter to a semi-urban area.
When asked what they value most when choosing a place to live, nowadays and before the pandemic, respondents in all countries reported the importance of access to healthcare services, doctors and hospitals, but also having access to high-speed internet connection and network coverage has increased.
With regards to their working lives, 63 per cent of professionally active EU respondents are not currently working remotely at all but, of workers whose job can be done remotely, 71 per cent stated it’s “somewhat” to “very likely” they will telework in the next three years.
When it came to AI, 86 per cent of EU consumers believe it would be useful for controlling city lighting more efficiently, followed by optimising public transport (85 per cent) and waste collection (84 per cent) managing city traffic (84 per cent) or identifying criminals and missing persons (79 per cent). The figures are even higher in Brazil said Euroconsumers.
“AI will be crucial for the efficient management of our urban spaces, and making them healthier, safer, and more sustainable places to live”
While most consumers think AI has only little, or somewhat of a presence, in their day-to-day life, this increases significantly when asked what they perceive the situation will be within three- and 10 years. Three-fifths (62 per cent) of respondents living or working in an urban area in the EU, and 80 per cent in Brazil, expect it to be “very present” in their day-to-day lives within a decade.
More than a third (35 per cent) of EU respondents living or working in an urban area agree with the statement “the implementation of AI-based technology will lead to significant job cuts in various sectors”, while only 22 per cent agree with the statement “the implementation of AI-based technology will create significant demand for new job positions”. Figures are similar in Brazil at 39 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.
“The majority of the global population live in cities,” said Marco Pierani, director of public affairs and media relations, Euroconsumers. “And this number will only grow. That is why AI will be crucial for the efficient management of our urban spaces, and making them healthier, safer, and more sustainable places to live. These surveys should serve as a basis for identifying what is needed from policy-makers to bring the promise of AI in cities.”
More than half (55 per cent) in the EU and 39 per cent in Brazil think consumers should be better informed when they are dealing with an automatic decision system. Few consumers believe current legislation is adequate to efficiently regulate AI-based activities (EU: 14 per cent), or even trust [national] authorities to exert effective control over AI organisations and companies (EU: 18 per cent).
“Consumers have a healthy trust in AI to deliver innovation and improve how our cities work,” said Els Bruggeman, head of policy and enforcement at Euroconsumers. “But as technology becomes more prevalent, and important, in our urban lives, continued consumer trust will be vital. That’s why a robust legal framework is needed to reassure consumers that their data, privacy and security will be strongly protected.”
Euroconsumers will reveal more of the research at its International Forum on 2 December, with policymakers and representatives from European smart cities.
“As technology becomes more prevalent, and important, in our urban lives, continued consumer trust will be vital.”
The surveys were conducted by Euroconsumers’ Statistical Surveys Department from 11-19 October 2021 in the countries Euroconsumers operate. In Brazil, the survey focused on two major cities: São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Euroconsumers is a leading consumer cluster in innovative information, personalised services and defence of consumer’s rights. It works closely with Consumers International to ensure consumers are safe, that markets are fair and benefit from honest relations with businesses and authorities. European member groups are also part of the umbrella network of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation. Together, they advocate for EU policies that benefit consumers in their daily lives.