Alphabet gives up on its plan to build a futuristic neighborhood in Toronto

How Google's parent company plans to make Toronto 'smart'

Sidewalk Labs, the subsidiary of Alphabet (GOOG) Focused on smart cities, it will no longer help develop the Canadian city’s Quayside neighborhood, he announced Thursday.
“But as unprecedented economic uncertainty has spread worldwide and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing key parts of the plan,” Daniel Doctoroff, president and CEO of Sidewalk Labs said in a blog post. “After much discussion, we concluded that it made no sense to proceed.”

Alphabet started work on the project in 2017, pledging over $ 50 million to reduce traffic congestion, carbon emissions and landfill waste using technology. But the plan quickly sparked controversy because of concerns about the amount of citizen data it would collect and was largely rejected by privacy activists and politicians.

As part of a 1,524-page report that exposes its vision, Sidewalk Labs has proposed crossings with sensors, monitoring the movement of all people and vehicles. The company said this would help move traffic quickly and ensure that walk signals leave more time for slow walkers, such as the elderly.

Sidewalk Labs said it would create an urban data trust to manage neighborhood information, which would provide independent data management and approve the way it is collected and used. But experts have warned that there is no guarantee that data trusts will address issues related to privacy, data breaches and distorted algorithms.

The project was significantly scaled back in October, limiting the amount of land that would have been redeveloped and less control over the data.

Waterfront Toronto, the government agency that oversees development, has said it will continue with the project.

“While this is not the expected result, Waterfront Toronto offers thanks and appreciation to Sidewalk Labs for its vision, efforts and numerous commitments that the company and its employees have made for the future of Toronto,” Stephen Diamond, the head of the agency, said in a declaration. “Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert contributions as we make a next-generation community in Quayside a reality.”

Doctoroff said Thursday that Sidewalk Labs will continue to focus on smart cities and related projects.

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“While we will not pursue this particular project, the current health emergency makes us feel even more strongly about the importance of reinventing cities for the future,” he said. “This is a vital effort for society and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it.”


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