The company, Sidewalk Labs, recently submitted its updated, innovative and futuristic masterplan to transform two neighbourhoods in Toronto’s waterfront. If the masterplan is accepted, the implementation of the plan in these neighbourhoods will be the pilot of a project to transform the wider waterfront.
Like Google, Sidewalk Labs is a subsidiary of the mother company, Alphabet. On their website, Sidewalk Labs claims that they “aim to improve quality of life in cities by producing precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic and social opportunity, all while building a successful business”. They continue to explain that this is done “by combining people-centered urban design with cutting-edge technology”.
The project aims to create 44 000 jobs, to cut greenhouse gases by 89%, to provide accommodation options for lower-and middle-income households as 40% of housing units will be below market rates, to save on transportation costs for families by ensuring that most trips are possible by mobility services, walking or cycling – to name but a few initiatives. These user-friendly neighbourhoods will also, for instance, adjust to the weather by offering protection to pedestrians when it rains with overhead “raincoats” on sidewalks.
Critics are worried about the plans to collect comprehensive sets of data as protection and ethical handling of data can be difficult to manage. Data will be collected about the weather, air quality and waste classification, but also to track transportation patterns from cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Though others claim that various processes to collect comprehensive data in the future are inevitable and that systems should be developed to protect the ethics behind and safeguard data.