What would it be like if you could build a new city with all the fancy futuristic technologies that are around the corner? Google parent company Alphabet isn’t entirely sure, but it wants to find out. Rather than be content with projections and simulations, Alphabet’s Sidewalk labs plans to build a real city called Project Sidewalk from the ground up to test new technologies.
Alphabet (previously just Google) is working on plenty of ideas that need real world testing before they can become full-fledged products, but getting cities to go along with big municipal tests can be a challenge. Much of the infrastructure in modern cities is cobbled together over the course of decades, and that makes implementing new technologies complicated and expensive.
The Alphabet city will test technologies like self-driving cars, new public transport, public WiFi services (perhaps similar to its LinkNYC project), and more. Connectivity certainly wouldn’t be a problem. This is exactly what Sidewalk Labs was designed to do — explore big ideas that can change the way urban centers are planned and managed. Sidewalk is working with more than 100 urban planning experts to come up with models for how such a city would work.
Sidewalk Labs is currently going over its options to decide if it wants to buy land to build Project Sidewalk or work with a county to build a new enclave on public land. If it buys land for the project, the company could construct a planned community that could house hundreds of thousands of people. The plan still needs to be approved by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, though.
If approved, counties across the US could start offering up land later this year in a scramble not seen since the early days of Google Fiber.