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Alphabet plans to create the neighborhood of the future in Toronto

Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent-company Alphabet Inc., officially unveiled its plan for a massive technology-driven neighborhood on Toronto's waterfront that it hopes will become a blueprint for the future, but which has already generated controversy.

The 1,500-page master plan covers a 4.8-hectare (12-acre) parcel on the eastern shore of the city's harbor. The Lake Ontario site would merge sustainable design with new technologies, such as trash-picking robots, sensors that measure pedestrians' gait, sidewalks that melt snow and street-side parking that can be pre-booked.

However, in an era of global concern over data protection at tech firms, the proposal has been criticized for concerns over loss of privacy, and the handing over of control of public spaces to a private corporation. The city, Ontario and federal governments, which have partnered with the New York-based urban planning firm on the project, would have to approve the proposal.

If the Can$3.9 billion (US$2.96 billion) development goes ahead, tens of thousands of people are expected to live and work in the district, where tall buildings would be made out of timber. Sidewalk Labs said it could be expanded to cover more than 77 hectares.

The aim, Sidewalk CEO Dan Doctoroff said, is to “create the neighborhood of the future... with people at its center, and with cutting-edge technology and forward-thinking urban design combining to achieve ambitious improvements in the urban environment and in the way we all live.”