Reimagining the smart allocation of road space in Amsterdam for fairness

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Roads are currently governed by relatively static rules communicated via road signs, road surface markings and navigation apps. However they could also be dynamic, allowing road space to be allocated for a multitude of activities over time. The Code the Streets project envisions a digital system for managing urban mobility in Amsterdam that would allow for this dynamic allocation of road space. Road rules are intended to be used to foster specific civic values such as livability or sustainability within the city. But how do we ensure fairness within such a system? This project explores how we can reimagine the smart allocation of road space in Amsterdam for fairness. Fairness is framed within this project as an ideal that cannot be reached but can be approximated through continuous adaptation. Inspired by literature on contestable AI, the continuous adaptation of the system is approached through stakeholder participation. The project relied on research in the form of literature review, expert interviews, and hands-on experimentation as well as the review of related design work. This research inspired design goals and criteria for the project’s design outcome: a system map and a speculative prototype. The map presents a system in which stakeholders have substantial influence over the values that the system and its design process foster. The speculative prototype, a low-tech user experience installation, makes parts of this system tangible and presents a provocative proposal for an alternative perspective on the current practice of road space allocation. The project ultimately produced several insights contributing to existing literature in the fields of public AI and design methodology research as well as delivering recommendations for Code the Streets.