Google Tackles City Life With Sidewalk Labs Startup

Google’s been branching out into new fields, far beyond its search engine origins and even into areas that border social change. Google’s newest startup, New York City-based Sidewalk Labs, certainly seems to fall under that category. The company’s goal is to improve city life in a number of ways through technological progress. Cutting pollution, saving energy, reducing the cost of living, and optimizing public transportation are all ways the new startup will seek to improve urban life.

Google expected to invest long-term in Sidewalk Labs.

Although Sidewalk Labs has been deemed a “relatively modest investment” and isn’t quite part of Google’s core business, the startup could see a good amount of capital in the long term. A model chosen for the company is Calico and AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company backed by Google. Calico is in a fifty-fifty partnership with Google to build a research center in the Bay Area for illness that mainly affect the elderly, such as dementia. Each partner put up a $500 million investment as part of the deal. Sidewalk Labs has also been compared to Google X, the lab responsible for Google’s self-driving cars, since it is also one of Google’s long-term businesses.

Sidewalk Labs draws from years of city administration experience.

Daniel L. Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York City for economic development and ex-CEO of Bloomberg L.P., has been chosen to lead the startup. Doctoroff spent six years as deputy mayor and seven as Bloomberg L.P. CEO, stepping down when company founder Michael Bloomberg wanted to regain control in 2014. Now acting as Sidewalk Labs CEO, Doctoroff believes that we’re at the brink of a revolution in cities thanks to new technologies.

Modern digital tech has already helped a few urban centers.

The efficiency of certain cities has already been boosted by companies like IBM and Cisco tech. IBM has streamlined traffic patterns in Stockholm and predicted mudslide locations in Rio de Janeiro. Similarly, Sidewalk Labs plans to create technology platforms that people can just tap into, rather than design infrastructure top-down. Doctoroff gave NYC’s bike sharing program as an early example of such a technology platform that helped innovate urban transportation.

The Penny skateboard is also ready to take on the city.