Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has confirmed plans to build a ‘smart’, digital city on Toronto’s Quayside. The development will start at 12 acres of land and will likely feature self-driving cars, sustainable energy, fast wi-fi and millions of data sensors.
The project has gained the backing of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who said "Technologies that will help us build smarter, greener, more inclusive cities - which we hope to see scale across Toronto's eastern waterfront and eventually in other parts of Canada and around the world."
Google plans to move its Canadian headquarters to the new city and Sidewalk Labs has already committed £37m to the project.
This plan will provide a test run of public-private partnerships of this kind, where technology companies are able to demonstrate their hardware and software to cities, and cities are able to tackle issues such as congestion, pollution and overcrowding.
The CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Dan Doctoroff, who is also the former New York Deputy Mayor said: “We believe Sidewalk Toronto can demonstrate to the world how to make living in cities cheaper, more convenient, healthier, greener, fairer, and even maybe more exciting."
If this project is successful it will provide a model for the building of future digital cities. Many cities around the world are striving to reach ‘smart city’ status. However this can be difficult due to existing energy, sewage and transport infrastructure and large populations. The advantage the project in Toronto has is that everything is being designed and built from scratch allowing all of Sidewalk Labs’ new technologies to be inputted from the beginning. The real challenge will be modifying the learnings from this project to be able to apply them to existing cities.