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Do Alphabet’s Plans To Build A Smart City Show The Future

Alphabet is planning to build a city of the future, starting with a downtown section in Toronto.

The goal is to create a proving ground for technology-backed urban sites across the globe. In this unique project Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet subsidiary, will develop Quayside, a 12-acre waterfront area, with the intention of expanding it across 800 acres of post-industrial waterfront property. Included in the proposed new development are modular housing, traffic lights that detect pedestrians, self-driving shuttles, and robots that deliver freight.

Sidewalk’s proposal also stated that the city of Toronto would have to exempt or waive several current regulations in areas like transportation, energy, and building codes in order to build its vision of a futuristic city.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt recently confirmed the deal in Toronto.

For Alphabet, the project is an opportunity to try new ways of using data and technology in the real world. Mr Schmidt said that it is not a random undertaking- the project culminates nearly 10 years of thought into how technology could improve everyone’s life.

Although there has been an anti-big tech movement in the US, where politicians have been struggling against the increasing influence of Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet, the latter’s effort to build in cities has not been deterred.


Mr Trudeau called the project a testing ground for new technologies that can result in greener cities. He confirmed that he and Mr Schmidt has been discussing a collaboration for a few years, and seeing everything come together was exciting.

One challenge for the new district will be establishing data policies and addressing privacy concerns. The latter is especially important because technologies that drive smart cities also tend to collect a lot of data to make the cities more efficient.

Sidewalk included a vision statement with its bid. In this statement, it described a huge system of sensors that will monitor everything, even overflowing rubbish bins and noise levels. The development will also include a thermal grid, on-site power generation, and tech-driven healthcare that integrates with social services.

Included in the district transportation proposal is a restriction on private vehicles. Instead, there will be self-driving shuttles and bike paths warmed in cold weather to support sustainable transportation. An assortment of underground utility tunnels will contain water pipes, electrical wires, and other utilities as well as serve as pathways for freight-delivering robots.

Sidewalk Labs was established in 2015 by Dan Doctoroff, a former New York deputy mayor. It will spend $50 million on planning and testing for the futuristic city development. The effort will include Google moving its Canadian headquarters to Toronto.

Mr Doctoroff said that a detailed plan of the futuristic city with smart technology would be presented within one year, after consulting with the community at length. He explained that his company’s goal was to listen and understand. Without community support, the project would not have the political credibility to do bigger and bolder things.

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