Self-driving cars. Heated sidewalks. Timber buildings. Sidewalk Labs touted them all in its dream of a futuristic Toronto neighborhood—but that dream died Thursday when Google's sibling company pulled the plug, Wired reports. "It is with great personal sadness and disappointment that Sidewalk Labs will no longer pursue the Quayside project," writes Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff at Medium. He blames the pullout on "unprecedented economic uncertainty" caused by COVID-19, but the project was already wavering over Sidewalk's plans to cull data, collect property taxes, and expand the footprint from its original 12 acres to some 800 acres owned mostly by the federal government, per the New York Times.
In Toronto, the debates went on—and on. Where some saw affordability and environmental standards, others decried a surveillance city run by algorithms over elected officials. "This is a big step back for surveillance capitalism and a victory for making technology serve society rather than capture it," says Jim Balsillie, a former BlackBerry executive. "Google learned that Canadians can't be easily bullied." But Google also learned to take its "city of tomorrow" plan elsewhere, wherever that may be—leaving Toronto back at square one with a lot of unused land. "It is a big loss indeed," writes Marcus Gee at the Globe & Mail. "Toronto has lost a wealthy, ambitious partner that would have invested a great deal of energy and money in the city and its waterfront." (Read more Google stories.)