Executives at Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), are planning to meet with Alphabet executives to discuss plans for a rejuvenation project designed to turn a section of an existing city into a “smart city.” The plan calls for billions of dollars in investments to make the section of the city high-tech and automated.
If the project is approved, Sidewalk Labs may solicit bids from cities in need of rejuvenation. The company then wants the city and its state to lift regulations on utilities, parking and city design to provide the company with more autonomy over its redesign efforts.
In contrast with the traditional top-down tech projects that cities have adopted in the past to improve services and reduce costs, Sidewalk Labs uses a bottom-up approach. Beyond providing internet access on city streets, the project team is focused on creating whole smart neighborhoods.
The four pillars of Sidewalk Labs are 1) modern, affordable housing using advanced materials, 2) digital mobility systems to manage limited road space, 3) personalized social services, and 4) distributed energy management using renewable energy and smart storage to improve reliability and reduce costs.
Sidewalk Labs will design city districts that feature advanced technology with the goal of improving energy use, transportation and living costs.
As part of the initiative, potential plans call for working with existing high-tech divisions within Alphabet that already have, or are working on, products that might be useful in the proposed “smart city,” such as self-driving cars; a commercial drone delivery service (Project Wing) set to debut in 2017; a higher-tech electric grid; and replacing public payphones with proprietary kiosks that will offer free public Wi-Fi and phone calls, tablets for web browsing, USB charging for mobile devices, and wayfinding tools.
Potential plans also call for a platform that will enable cities to use real-time data to understand and manage street activity, such as parking, lane changing and traffic enforcement.
Sidewalk Labs was established in 2015 to launch projects that have the potential to be embraced by urban dwellers.