Alphabet, the parent company of Google, may just have revealed plans for its latest 'moonshot' idea – to build its own city. Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company created in early 2015, is currently working to improve public Wi-Fi availability and traffic flow through congested cities, but it might also be planning something much larger.
When interviewed on stage at The Information's New York summit on 5 April, Sidewalk Labs chief executive Dan Doctoroff told editor in chief Jessica Lessin that developing an entire city as a technology testbed "would be a great idea". Lessin asked the question after hearing a tip about Alphabet building its own city.
The technology cannot be stopped
Doctoroff added that "thinking about a city from the internet up is really compelling...[but] cities are hard. You have people with vested interest, political, physical space...But the technology ultimately cannot be stopped."
Although Doctoroff told Lessin "I can't tell you anything" when she asked further about Alphabet building a city, he accepted that "If you could create a place, it'd be a laboratory to experiment with these problems." The Information notes that such a project would allow Sidewalk Labs to "rethink government, social policy, and data-driven management."
Building its own city would give Alphabet and its various subsidiaries, including Google, a self-driving car division, the balloon-based internet solution Project Loon, and Sidewalk Labs, a blank canvas to design a brand new take on urban living. Autonomous cars would shuttle people from A to B more safely and efficiently than taxis; the Internet of Things would connect everything from street lamps and traffic lights to offices air conditioning systems and the city's postal and emergency services.