It was recently announced that the Waterfront Toronto board and Alphabet-owned company Sidewalk Labs will soon be planning a smart city for development. The city will be called Quayside, and its estimated cost will top $1 billion.
While there aren’t precise plans or dates for the city yet, there is still a lot of excitement and buzz around this futuristic project. If this city works, it can be the poster child for future smart cities, and will really highlight how we can use this technology to help improve lives and our environment and not just for novelty conveniences.
There is a Plan Development Agreement in place between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, which was created to help set the expectations of the companies and the public. It also outlines responsibilities, and details the moral and ethical focuses that will serve as the foundations for building this city.
Here are a few things that we expect (and hope) to be included in this first-of-its-kind smart city:
There are lots of things about current roadways that can be improved, from their conditions to the materials used to their sizes. One way that Quayside might develop smart roads is by using LED lights. The lights would use color to indicate the width of the road and the width of the sidewalk, replacing the standard lines that we are used to now. This would allow the roads to adjust quickly based on foot traffic vs. vehicle traffic vs. bike traffic. This type of dynamic street sounds great in theory, but will have a learning curve for those that use it. In the long run, though, it can help reduce congestion and make the city safer.
Beyond smart roads that adjust for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, there are ways to change how we look at things like city vehicles and delivery fleets to help a city be smarter about traffic. Without those extra vehicles on the road, everyday drivers will face less congestion and, ultimately, less frustration. There have been some mock ups of using elevated systems for this type of traffic, but it’s more likely that Sidewalk Labs will develop underground networks. Not only will everyday commuters feel relief, but shipments can arrive with reduced chances of delays.
While humans, in general, want to reduce the emissions caused by driving, it’s difficult to rely on walking or biking when you live in an area with extreme weather conditions. Smart sidewalks could help sway people, though. If it is raining or if there is high heat, umbrellas or canopies can be raised. If the conditions are cold and icy, underground heating can be turned on.
What would a smart city be without smart cars? While Uber and Lyft have made a business out of turning the average Joe and Jane into drivers, the smart city will aim to remove drivers. Driverless cars are still an emerging technology and the testing has led to some controversy, but overall this seems to be the way of the future. In Quayside, we expect to see autonomous vehicles in all sizes and for all levels of incomes.