Cellular Automata in Urban Simulation: Basic Notions and Recent Developments

N Pinto, A Antunes, J Roca, F Bavaud (Editor), C Mager (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Cellular Automata (CA) is a spatial simulation technique that has been the subject of intensive research for the last two decades. This technique draws its theoretical origins in the 1940s with the research effort made by von Neumann and Ulam for devising mathematical rules for the evolution of biological systems. The intrinsic spatial character of CA suggested their introduction to quantitative geography by Tobler in the 1970s. In this chapter, we firstly present a concise literature survey on CA and their use in geography. The mathematical formulation of CA is presented, as well as their main applications to urban geography and urban studies. The discussion over important CA relaxations is introduced. In the second part of the chapter we present a series of recent developments regarding the use of geographic CA. Two main issues constitute the core of these developments: the choice of the modeling scale and the use of irregular cells. The development of a CA model for simulating change in small urban areas is presented. The use of irregular cells in opposition to the classic regular, pixel-based cells is also discussed. Finally, a reflection is made about future trends in a multi-scale CA for modeling urban and regional growth.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Theoretical and Quantitative Geography
Place of PublicationLausanne, Switzerland
PublisherUniversité de Lausanne, Faculté de géosciencies et de l'environment
Number of pages38
ISBN (Print)978-2-9403-6808-2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameFGSE – Workshop series
PublisherFaculty of Geosciences and Environment


  • Cellular automata
  • Land use
  • Urban change
  • Small urban areas
  • Multiscale


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