Google’s new Sidewalk Labs initiative aims to ‘improve life in cities for everyone’

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Not content with expanding its ad business, developing self-driving cars, mapping the world, and building Internet-giving balloons, Google says it now wants to use technology to improve life for city dwellers across the U.S. and beyond. Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page on Thursday announced details of the Web giant’s new urban innovations venture, called Sidewalk Labs.

Sidewalk Labs’ mission is to “improve life in cities for everyone through the application of technology to solve urban problems,” and will be run by a team led by Daniel L. Doctoroff, New York City’s former deputy mayor of economic development and rebuilding.

Specific details regarding Google’s latest venture were in short supply, though Page said the new company will focus on developing and incubating urban technologies “to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage.” Based in New York City, Sidewalk Labs believes it can make a real difference by combining Doctoroff’s experience in building and managing cities with funding and support from the Mountain View company.

In a message on Sidewalk’s website, the company noted the drastic changes new technologies have already brought to areas such as commerce, media and access to information. But it said that although there are plenty of apps offering users information about things like traffic conditions and apartment prices, “the biggest challenges that cities face, such as making transportation more efficient and lowering the cost of living, reducing energy usage and helping government operate more efficiently have, so far, been more difficult to address.”

Through the development of new products, platforms and partnerships, Sidewalk says it hopes to make improvements in these areas. Page described Sidewalk as “a relatively modest investment and very different from Google’s core business.”

He added, “Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey and I have always believed that it’s important. And as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless.”

With Page likening Sidewalk to the Google X experimental research lab, we can expect some weird and wonderful ideas from the new company in the coming years, some of which will hopefully go on to fulfill Sidewalk’s exciting promise to make city life better.

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