Sidewalk Labs' smart city proposal brings fresh wave of data and logistical concerns

Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs' $1.3 billion proposal for a Toronto-based smart city is under review by Waterfront Toronto, its Canadian partner. And concerns have arisen.

In 2017, Sidewalk Labs outlined its plan for Quayside, a district within Toronto that would utilize technology to solve pressing environmental, economic, and spatial issues present in many major cities. Port Lands, a 12-acre patch of undeveloped land, was chosen for the project with the promise of economic prosperity and a Land of Tomorrow-esque focus on technological forethought.

"The district will become a place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn, and play—and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life, from climate-positive energy systems that can deliver a new standard in sustainability, to self-driving transit that makes streets safer, to new construction techniques that can lower housing costs," Sidewalk Labs said at the time.

Now, 18 months later, Sidewalk Labs has released its 1,524 page development plan, which gives the project an estimated 2040 completion date, according to The Verge. But Sidewalk's project has raised concerns about data collection and the project's expanded scope—creating a city of future requires more than fancy technology, and groups such as #BlockSidewalk disapprove of Google using Toronto as a "testbed."

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The development plan also prompted an open letter by Stephen Diamond, the Chairman of Waterfront Toronto's board of directors; Diamond's primary concerns relate to Google's overextension of its initial plans. Diamond writes that the company's document proposes a development space larger than the original discussed area and would require significant logistical considerations before Toronto could implement certain programs, such as an extension of public transport.

Additionally, Diamond writes that more information is needed on the project's data proposals and policies to ensure it conforms with government policy. "As we have said before, this project has stirred vigorous debate and, regardless of the outcome, raises issues to consider," Diamond wrote. "Whether the Quayside project proceeds or not, the conversation we are having is important for all of Toronto."

This isn't Alphabet's only massive infrastructural undertaking; Google also announced its decision to dedicate $1 billion to begin repairing San Francisco's housing crisis.

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