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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

Bipartisan police reform negotiations end without deal

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Capitol in May 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bipartisan talks on reforming police tactics and accountability, prompted by George Floyd's murder in May 2020, have ended without a compromise, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a key negotiator, said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Booker, had been working toward a bipartisan deal for months but they fell apart due to disagreements on qualified immunity and other issues.

Biden speaks with Macron for first time since diplomatic crisis

President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have a conversation ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, on June 14, 2021. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since a diplomatic row erupted over a scrapped submarine order, per the White House.

Driving the news: Macron said that the French ambassador will return to Washington next week and will resume working with senior U.S. officials.

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: U.S. and Israel held secret talks on Iran "plan B"

Bennett and Biden. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/Pool/Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel held secret talks on Iran last week to discuss a possible “plan B” if nuclear talks are not resumed, two senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time a top-secret U.S.-Israel strategic working group on Iran has convened since the new Israeli government took office in June.