Google spinoff Sidewalk Labs is still building "the city of the future" in Toronto, being close to entering its third year of the project that started with a 2014 pitch to former Bloomberg LP chief Dan Doctoroff written by Eric Schmidt himself. The smart city venture was launched in 2015, aimed at providing solutions for everything from urban transportation and quick building repurposing to utility cost management powered by artificial intelligence technologies. Shortly after the introduction of Sidewalk Labs, Google went through a major restructuring that saw it repositioned as a subsidiary of holding company Alphabet, turning its smart city project into a largely autonomous company that for all intents and purposes is operating as a startup.
Two years later, the initiative was renamed into Sidewalk Toronto after it successfully won a bid to build a smart neighborhood spanning 750 acres of land in Eastern Waterfront, showcasing its technologies that promise to revolutionize the very concept of contemporary metropolitan areas. While Sidewalk Labs is neither the first nor only startup pursuing such solutions, the fundamental aspects of its project are relatively unique, starting with modular building design and highly versatile neighborhood layouts that allow for quick large-scale repurposings. E.g. the initial version of the company's smart neighborhood may still feature a significant number of traditional vehicles but as more people start embracing electric cars, a gas station could be repurposed into an electric charging lot, only to swiftly be turned into a store or something else after ride-hailing services start replacing personal vehicle ownership.
The materials used for (re)building such areas are meant to be eco-friendly and affordable, with the latter goal being one of the startup's top priorities. As such, Sidewalk Labs is looking to directly address the issue of inequality that starts with middle-class and less affluent people being priced out of urban areas, consequently having their job opportunities reduced and being stuck in an endless loop of increasing poverty. Many things still have to fall into place before the firm's vision of highly automated future cities is realized, with tight privacy policies being one of the most important issues that need to be addressed moving forward. The question of making money is another one that Sidewalk Labs will have to tackle in the near future, with its Chief Policy Officer Rit Aggarwala admitting the company still isn't sure how exactly will it monetize its cities, especially as it already dismissed the possibility of using an advertising-based business model that would see it harvest data to serve ads like Google does.