Sidewalk Labs' Toronto office. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Sidewalk Labs, the urban tech segment of Google parent Alphabet, is pulling out of its long-planned smart city project for Toronto's waterfront, citing "unprecedented economic uncertainty."

Why it matters: The move suggests pursuing futuristic transformations may take a back seat as already strapped cities focus their resources on managing the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact.

Driving the news: "[A]s unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan," Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a Thursday blog post.

  • "And so, after a great deal of deliberation, we concluded that it no longer made sense to proceed with the Quayside project, and let Waterfront Toronto know yesterday," he continued.
  • Nevertheless, Doctoroff said the coronavirus crisis "makes us feel even more strongly about the importance of reimagining cities for the future" and suggested work will continue on various Sidewalk Labs projects aimed at deploying tech to make cities more affordable and sustainable.

Background: The project was meant to be a testbed for the smart city concept in North America, using tech for sophisticated construction processes and tapping an extensive network of connected sensors and devices to monitor and optimize everything from traffic patterns to energy use to housing density.

  • Sidewalk Labs last year said it planned to team with local partners to invest roughly $1.3 billion Canadian (roughly $931 million U.S. today) in developing the project.
  • But it has been plagued nearly since its 2017 inception with criticisms over privacy and other issues.

Go deeper: The privacy worries with smart cities

Go deeper

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 19,655,445 — Total deaths: 727,353 — Total recoveries — 11,950,845Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 4,998,802 — Total deaths: 162,425 — Total recoveries: 1,643,118 — Total tests: 61,080,587Map.
  3. Politics: Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid — Democrats, and some Republicans, criticize the move.
  4. Public health: Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective — 1 in 3 Americans would decline COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Science: Indoor air is the next coronavirus frontline.
  6. Schools: How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on — Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Howard to hold fall classes online.

Elevator anxiety will stifle reopenings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Will you step back into an elevator any time soon?

Why it matters: Tens of billions of dollars — and the future of cities around the country — rest on the answer to that question. So long as workers remain unwilling to take elevators, hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of office real estate will continue to go largely unused.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Brazil coronavirus death toll tops 100,000 and case numbers surpass 3 million

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro posted a photo of himself to Facebook congratulating his soccer team, Palmeiras, for winning the state title Saturday, moments after the health ministry confirmed the national COVID-19 death toll had surpassed 100,000.

Why it matters: Brazil is only the second country to confirm more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. On Sunday morning, it became the second country to surpass 3 million cases, per Johns Hopkins. Only the U.S. has reported more. Bolsonaro has yet to address the milestones. He has previously tested positive for COVID-19 three times, but he's downplayed the impact of the virus, which has crippled Brazil's economy.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the latest coronavirus case numbers and more context.