On the Sidewalk Labs website is a 200-page document explaining its vision for a smart neighborhood in Toronto. It’s packed with illustrations that show a warm, idyllic community full of grassy parks, modular buildings and underground tunnels with delivery robots and internet cabling inside. The text describes “a truly complete community” that’s free of cars and committed to reducing its carbon footprint. Underpinning everything is a network of sensors that can monitor noise, traffic and pollution, collecting the troves of data required to understand and improve the city’s design.
Flipping through the pages, it’s easy to see how the company — an offshoot of Google parent Alphabet — was chosen to revitalize the Lake Ontario waterfront. The lengthy pitch document, however, is just a taste of what the area might become. It’s a dreamy but meticulously thought-out mood board summarizing what Sidewalk Labs has been pondering for the past two years. Reading it cover to cover, you can get lost in the scale and ambition of such a project. Most companies would struggle to execute just one aspect of the plan: autonomous transit, for instance, or buildings that can be quickly and cheaply repurposed depending on the time of day or needs of the city.
Sidewalk Labs, however, wants to do it all….
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