As cities decide how to build for the future, they might start looking squarely at Toronto.

Two years ago, Google created a startup called Sidewalk Labs to "accelerate innovation in cities around the world." The company has been weighing potential locations for a massive feasibility study that could be used as an example of what future cities could look like.

On Tuesday, Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto announced that they'll transform a section of the metropolis's waterfront. The project, called Sidewalk Toronto, will combine technology with innovative design to create a city center that's home to people and companies. 

"This project," Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said during a press conference, "will become a model for others not only in Canada, but around the world."

Sidewalk Labs was created by Google in 2015, then spun out as a subsidiary. Former New York City deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff is the company's CEO.

"We have an opportunity," Doctoroff said in a video during the presentation, "to fundamentally redefine what urban life can actually be."

While the company scouted locations for the project last year, Doctoroff wrote that he envisioned the city of the future offering free Wi-Fi throughout, relying on sustainable energy, having automated trash systems, and being outfitted with self-driving cars in mind. These innovations, he said, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds and save the average resident an hour each day, thanks largely to transportation improvements.

They would also put every resident within a short walk of green space, he wrote, since autonomous cars would require fewer street lanes and parking spaces. 

"Over time," Doctoroff said during the conference, "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. And it can create the conditions for people, companies, startups, and local organizations to innovate on top of, making Toronto the global hub of new industry at the intersection of cities and technologies."

The project will take place in an area southeast of downtown Toronto. Doctoroff says the the hope is to over time extend it across the city's eastern waterfront.

Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Toronto mayor John Tory, and Waterfront Toronto board chair Helen Burstyn also took part in the presentation.

"A partnership of this scale," Burstyn said, "has never happened here, or anywhere, before." 

Published on: Oct 17, 2017