The simulation of land use change process needs the support of Geographical Information System (GIS) and other relative technologies. While the present commercial GIS lack capabilities of distribution, prediction, and simulation of spatial-temporal data. Cellular automata (CA) provide dynamically modeling "from bottom-to-top" framework and posses the capability of modeling spatial-temporal evolvement process of a complicated geographical system, which is composed of a fourfold: cells, states, neighbors and rules. The simplicity and flexibility make CA have the ability to simulate a variety of behaviors of complex systems. One of the most potentially useful applications of cellular automata from the point of view of spatial planning is their use in simulations of urban sprawl at local and regional level.
The paper firstly introduces the principles and characters of the cellular automata, and then discusses three methods of the integration of CA and GIS. The paper analyses from a practical point of view the factors that effect urban activities in the science of spatial decision-making. The status of using CA to dynamic simulates of urban expansion at home and abroad is analyzed. Finally, the problems and tendencies that exist in the application of CA model are detailed discussed, such as the quality of the data that the CA needs, the self-organization of the CA roots in the mutual function among the elements of the system, the partition of the space scale, the time calibration of the CA and the integration of the CA with other modular such as artificial nerve net modular and population modular etc.