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Imagine a city where Google self-driving cars zoom the street, all homes access their internet through Google Fiber, and data ruled everything.
Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, the company Google created last year to improve urban areas through technology, said on stage at a summit hosted by The Information that building a city from scratch “would be a great idea.”
He was responding to a question about a tip that Sidewalk had hired consultants to consider doing just that.
“Thinking about [a city] from the Internet up is really compelling,” he continued, after noting that he wouldn’t speak to any of Sidewalk’s actual plans.
Sidewalk, a standalone subsidiary under Google parent company Alphabet, currently has two public projects, one to provide free WiFi in New York City and another to use anonymized data to understand traffic and congestion.
It has grand plans to tackle issues like cost of living, efficient transportation, and energy use.
On stage, Doctoroff added that building a new city could be “a laboratory to experiment” with solutions to cybersecurity and privacy issues. That rhetoric aligns with the thoughts of Alphabet CEO Larry Page who mused a couple years back about setting aside part of the world to test different experiements outisde the bounds of law or regulation.
Doctoroff says that “there are lots of lessons that can be learned from the past” and from other attempts at innovation districts. But right now Sidewalk is just focusing on building products and services.
“Cities are hard,” Doctoroff said. “You have people with vested interest, politics, physical space… But the technology ultimately cannot be stopped.”