Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs is meeting with several top executives to discuss plans for a rejuvenation project in an existing city. The plan involves billions of dollars in investment to make the city high-tech, automated, and vibrant.
While details are scarce at the moment, The Information reports that Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff will meet with Alphabet CEO Larry Page to receive a green light on the “Sidewalk Project.”
If the project is approved, Sidewalk Labs might solicit bids from states or cities in need of rejuvenation. Similar to Google Fiber, Sidewalk wants the state to remove regulations on utilities, parking, and city design to give the company more autonomy over the re-design.
That might scare off some cities that are not willing to cede control to a corporation, though others that require a major upheaval might accept these terms if it means billions in private investment, turning the city into a tech epicenter.
Alphabet already has a few high-tech divisions working on products that are useful in a smart city. The self-driving car, Project Wing, Makani, and Project Insight — which came from X Labs — could all be implemented in a controlled smart city environment.
Alphabet working its smart city network to rebuild American cities
Add to that Alphabet’s potential partnerships with other smart city companies and it might be the perfect opportunity for cities or states that require a major rejuvenation to bring residents and companies back.
No cities were mentioned in the report and for all we know Sidewalk Labs might have to go out and persuade downtrodden cities or neighborhoods to let them re-build, before they get any offers.
Rejuvenation of an entire city is hard and much harder when you remove its historic value in favor of high-tech and low regulations. While the city might look fancy, as the WSJ points out, it might lack the vibrancy of cities that were able to naturally grow into super-cities.