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Google city sparks fresh controversy

 Toronto Waterfront

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Sidewalk Labs

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An image from Sidewalk Labs' plans for Toronto

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, has published its plans to build a smart city in Toronto, sparking fresh controversy.

In a 1

,500-word document, the company laid out its ambitions to "improve the urban environment" "with a variety of high-tech innovations.

Toronto Waterfront, the body that will decide if the bid is successful, has questioned the proposals.

Meanwhile, some citizens want the plans to be scrapped entirely.

'Lab rats'

The partnership between the Sidewalk Labs and the Toronto Waterfront was announced in 2017 and the plans to revitalize the city were intended to be a model for future urban development.

But citizens expressed concerns about becoming "lab rats" and questioned Sidewalk Labs' motivations in building a city "from the internet up".

A group called simply Block Sidewalk held meetings to express growing concern about having a huge technology company making decisions about city life.

The group has called a meeting on 3 July to discuss the plans.

Sidewalk Labs chief executive Dan Doctoroff remained upbeat about its intentions, saying it wanted to create "something extraordinary" on Toronto's eastern waterfront.

"The proposal aims to create the neighborhood of the future in the right kind of way with people at its center and with cutting edge technology and forward-thinking urban design, "he said.

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Sidewalk Labs

Image caption

Sidewalk Labs's waterfront plan

'Different perspective'

The Master of Innovation and Development Plan outlines a range of innovations – from thermal and advanced energy grids, to factory-based construction of timber buildings, to a dynamic mobility network with heated bike lanes and adaptive traffic lights.

But in an open letter, Toronto Waterside chairman Stephen Diamond's response seemed lukewarm, saying there were key areas where the two organizations had "very different perspectives"

This included the scale of the plan, which he said was "much larger" than the original 12-acre (48,500-sq-m) site, and its proposals to collect and store data, which he said required additional information to ensure they complied with applicable laws.

Image copyright [19659003] Sidewalk Labs

Sidewalk Labs said it had spent 18 months consulting more than 20,000 Toronto citizens.

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