Tensions in transparent urban AI: designing a smart electric vehicle charge point

Kars Alfrink*, Ianus Keller, Neelke Doorn, Gerd Kortuem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


The increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) by public actors has led to a push for more transparency. Previous research has conceptualized AI transparency as knowledge that empowers citizens and experts to make informed choices about the use and governance of AI. Conversely, in this paper, we critically examine if transparency-as-knowledge is an appropriate concept for a public realm where private interests intersect with democratic concerns. We conduct a practice-based design research study in which we prototype and evaluate a transparent smart electric vehicle charge point, and investigate experts’ and citizens’ understanding of AI transparency. We find that citizens experience transparency as burdensome; experts hope transparency ensures acceptance, while citizens are mostly indifferent to AI; and with absent means of control, citizens question transparency’s relevance. The tensions we identify suggest transparency cannot be reduced to a product feature, but should be seen as a mediator of debate between experts and citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1065
Number of pages17
JournalAI and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Electric vehicles
  • Transparency
  • Urban AI


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