The city of the future is coming.
Back in April, reports surfaced suggesting that Google's Sidewalk Labs was planning to create its own high-tech, superconnected metropolis. The company, which Google formed in 2015 and soon spun off as a subsidiary, has the stated goal of "accelerat[ing] innovation in cities around the world."
Now, Sidewalk Labs is shedding more light on those plans. In a blog post yesterday, CEO Dan Doctoroff confirmed that the company is scouting locations for the city of the future, and might hold a competition to determine the eventual location.
Doctoroff writes that the project would serve to "explore coordinated solutions, showcase innovations, and establish models for others to follow." The city of the future, in Sidewalk Labs' view, would offer free high-speed Wi-Fi for all and would include automated trash systems, sustainable energy, and self-driving cars.
When applied on a citywide scale, Doctoroff says, these advancements could reduce greenhouse emissions by two-thirds and save the average resident an hour of time each day, due largely to transportation improvements.
Many of the urban improvements Sidewalk Labs envisions stem from autonomous driving. The company predicts this innovation will reduce the need for on-site storage, since people will be able to cheaply order goods on demand--thus meaning they require less living space and cheaper rents. And eliminating parking spaces would mean more outdoor open areas. "It would put everyone within a short walk of a park," Doctoroff writes.
The announcement coincides with Sidewalk Labs' one-year anniversary, but Doctoroff also draws on current events for its timing. "The recent U.S. election," he writes, "has left many urbanists wondering how much support the federal government will offer local government during the next administration." As such, he calls on local governments to bring technologists and urbanists together--a feat, he notes that's often easier said than done.
Sidewalk Labs is already speaking to mayors and city leaders about the project. Back in April, the Information reported that Denver and Detroit were the frontrunners. Google chose Kansas City as the flagship location for its Fiber project and has been installing broadband in the city since 2013, so it could make sense as a location, since much of the internet infrastructure is already in place.
Doctoroff noted that since rumors of the project began to fly this spring, the company has fielded inquiries from around the world. He did not specify whether the project will be limited to the United States.
Sidewalk Labs' first venture was to invest in LinkNYC, an effort to install internet hotspots throughout New York City. The kiosks, which began springing up late last year, provide Wi-Fi within a 150-foot radius.
As a first step for the feasibility study, Sidewalk Labs will create up to nine labs in urban areas, with specific focuses like public health and affordable, sustainable construction.
Correction: This post has been updated to clarify that Sidewalk Labs invested in LinkNYC to help install internet hotspots in New York City.