Google parent company Alphabet has been taking some “moonshots” recently, working on futuristic projects from robotics to connected homes.
Now Google’s Alphabet may be readying to get into the business of building its own cities too.
Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, the company’s urban planning team, is set to pitch a proposal to rebuild part of a struggling American city as a new high-tech “smart city,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
The new Sidewalk project would make way for self-driving cars on its streets, more efficient electricity and water delivery systems, and high-tech housing units for tens of thousands of people and workers.
Maybe something more like what the Jetsons would have expected to see from their flying car?
Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs is the same company behind New York City’s new payphone-replacement machines: the Link NYC kiosks that beam out Wi-Fi internet, dole out directions, and yes, like those archaic payphones of yesteryear, also make outgoing calls. And Sidewalk Labs also announced a new plan this spring to help improve traffic congestion in a handful of cities around the country.
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But the new urban development, if approved by Alphabet, would be a bigger get for Sidewalk, one aimed at designing and building up a whole new kind of high-tech, high-density micro city, without traditional city regulations on things like parking and street design (making way for more of Google’s driverless cars, perhaps?). The company would likely target an “economically struggling” area of a decaying city for the project, the Journal reports.
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Sidewalk’s CEO Daniel Doctoroff has some experience rebuilding cities already: He is a former New York City deputy mayor who rezoned swaths of that city for urban housing and development projects, including the area of Manhattan’s West Side currently being redeveloped above railroad tracks, Hudson Yards.
But Alphabet’s other moonshot projects have been feeling some growing pains recently as the company aims to solve problems from life sciences to connected home systems like Nest. Executives at Alphabet are set to weigh in on the new city pitch in the coming weeks, the Journal says.