As part of its reorganisation last year, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. converted its private city planning outfit Sidewalk Labs – tasked with modernising US cities to help integrate new technologies – into its own subdivision. The mission statement of this new subsidiary, though, appears to be more than just guiding existing cities into the future, with plans revealed that it is seeking to create its own “digital districts”; in effect, new, Google-built cities.
“The idea under consideration is for Sidewalk to create an area in the U.S. that serves as a testbed for new technologies from superfast Internet to autonomous cars, according to several people involved in the effort,” reports The Information (paywalled, via re/code). “Some 100 city planning experts, researchers and technologists have been involved with the project, including Stuart Miller, the CEO of home builder Lennar, Anthony Townsend, research director of Institute of the Future, Stanford professor Balaji Prabhakar and Harvard economist Ed Glaeser. The consulting firm McKinsey has also been advising.”
When approached for comment, a representative of Sidewalk Labs called the plan “speculation,” while Alphabet refused to comment.
Sidewalk Labs’ major contribution to US city modernisation thus far is the LinkNYC free WiFi network established in New York last Summer.