April 16, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Alphabet gave up his plans to build a futuristic environment in Toronto

How Google's parent company plans to make Toronto 'smart'

Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of PT Alphabet (GOOG) focusing on smart cities, will no longer help develop the Canadian city Quayside neighborhood, announced Thursday.
“But because of unprecedented economic uncertainty around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it is too difficult to make the 12 hectare project financially feasible without compromising the core part of the plan,” Daniel Doctoroff, chairman and CEO from Sidewalk Labs, said in blog post. “After much deliberation, we conclude that it doesn’t make sense to continue.”

Alphabet began working on this project in 2017, committing more than $ 50 million to reduce traffic congestion, carbon emissions and landfill waste using technology. But the plan quickly sparked controversy because of concerns about the amount of citizen data that would be collected, and was widely slammed by privacy campaigners and politicians.

As part of a 1,524-page report that outlines his vision, the Sidewalk Lab proposes a sensor crossing, tracking the movements of everyone and vehicles. The company says this will help move traffic quickly and ensure the walking signal leaves extra time for slow pedestrians, like older people.

Sidewalk Labs said it would create confidence in urban data to handle environmental information, which would provide independent data management and agree on how to collect and use it. But experts warn that there is no guarantee that data trust will overcome issues surrounding privacy, data breaches and algorithm bias.

The project was significantly scaled back in October, limiting the amount of land to be rebuilt and controlling data less.

Waterfront Toronto, the government agency that oversees the construction, said it would continue the project.

“Although this is not the result we expected, Waterfront Toronto would like to thank and award Sidewalk Labs for the vision, efforts, and many commitments made by the company and its employees for the future of Toronto,” Stephen Diamond, head of the agency, said in statement. “Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert input as we make the next generation of communities on Quayside a reality.”

Doctoroff said Thursday that the Sidewalk Lab will continue to focus on smart cities and related projects.

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“Although we will not pursue this particular project, current health emergencies make us feel stronger about the importance of reorganizing cities for the future,” he said. “This is a vital social endeavor, and the Sidewalk Lab will continue our work to contribute to it.”

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