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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

56 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

The norms around science and politics are cracking

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.