Sidewalk Labs, which is a sister company of online giant Google, has recently published plans that would see the construction of a ‘smart city’ in a disused suburb of Canadian city Toronto. These plans have sparked a fresh wave of controversy.
The company released a 1,500-word document that lays out its ambitions to improve the city’s urban environment with a number of high-tech innovations.
The organisation that will decide whether or not to approve the plans is Waterfront Toronto, and it has a number of questions about the proposals. Furthermore, a number of Toronto’s citizens have called for the plans to be abandoned completely.
Sidewalk Labs entered into a partnership with Waterfront Toronto back in 2017 and the organisations were hoping to create a set of proposals that would revitalise a derelict area of Toronto, with these proposals intended to become a model for the future of urban development.
However, Toronto residents have raised their concerns about the city becoming a ‘lab rat’ and have questioned the motive behind Sidewalk Labs wanting to construct a city with the internet as its foundation.
A group that opposes the smart city plans, known as Block Sidewalk, has held a number of meetings in order to express the growing concerns surrounding the city and having a large technology enterprise making the big decisions about city life. The group has now called a meeting to take place next Wednesday, July 3, to discuss the proposals.
The Chief Executive of Sidewalk Labs, Dan Doctoroff, remains upbeat about the firm’s plans, stating that it wants to construct something extraordinary on the eastern waterfront of Toronto. He says that the plans would see the creation of a futuristic neighbourhood with its citizens at the centre, along with cutting-edge technology and urban design.
Among the technological advances outlined in the company’s Master Innovation and Development Plan are advanced, thermal energy grids, factory-based timber building construction and a mobility network that would include adaptive traffic lights and heated bicycle lanes.
Reacting to the plans in an open letter, Stephen Diamond, the chairman of Waterfront Toronto, said that there were a number of key areas where Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs had completely different perspectives.
Diamond added that this includes the scale of the project, which was much larger than the original site (12 acres), and the way it would collect and store its data, which would require a more detailed approach in order to comply with the applicable data protection laws.
As part of its research, Sidewalk Labs stated that it spent around a year and a half consulting with over 20,000 citizens of Toronto