Google has launched the latest in its string of moonshot projects, and this time, it hopes to make urban living easier, cheaper and better for city dwellers.
The new project, called Sidewalk Labs, is a spinoff company that focuses on "urban innovation." In a press release posted on the new company's website, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff says the project's focus is on "improving city life for residents, businesses and governments." Google specifically hopes the latest project can find ways to improve transportation, lower the cost of living, and make energy use more efficient, among others.
Doctoroff, who is former CEO of Bloomberg LP and deputy mayor of economic development in New York City, says Sidewalk Labs signals "the beginning of a historic transformation in cities."
"At a time when the concerns about urban equity, costs, health and the environment are intensifying, unprecedented technological change is going to enable cities to be more efficient, responsive, flexible and resilient," Doctoroff said.
A few cities around the world have begun using technology to create services that improve city living, such as dashboards that allow residents to visualize traffic patterns and tools that let residents provide instant feedback on city services. However, Google aims to go far beyond building tools and into developing scalable platforms that can be deployed in large cities.
"We hope that Sidewalk will play a major role in developing technology products, platforms and advanced infrastructure that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world," said Doctoroff.
Google CEO Larry Page himself, who has taken a backseat from running the company's everyday operations to work on its moonshot projects, has announced the creation of Sidewalk on his Google+ page. He compares the new company, which he calls "a relatively modest investment," to Google X, which is responsible for developing Google's self-driving cars, Wi-Fi balloons, airborne wind turbines and other futuristic projects, as well as Calico, whose aim is to extend human life.
"Making long-term 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey (Brin) and I have always believed that it's important," Page said. "And as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless."
Google itself is working on its own small-city project with the proposed redesign of its Mountain View headquarters. The proposal, which has been submitted to the city council, features a futuristic city where, instead of immovable buildings, there are flexible blocks that can be moved around by cranes. And in place of roofs are "large translucent canopies" that control climate while letting in light and air to "blur the distinction between our buildings and nature."