Google could be planning to build its own 'digital city'

Smart cities
Is a Google-powered smart city on the way?

In the not-too-distant future our cities could feature a lot more Google tech, from self-driving car pods to ultra-fast Wi-Fi you can connect to from anywhere. Now the powers-that-be at Google's parent company Alphabet are planning to build a city from scratch to test out all this hardware and infrastructure, according to reports.

Sidewalk Labs, one of Alphabet's newer subsidiaries, is rumoured to be planning "a testbed for new technologies" in the words of The Information. Parts of Denver and Detroit are apparently being looked at as potential locations.

Of course there are already parts of existing cities that are being extensively used to test autonomous vehicles and other futuristic tech, but this sounds like something much grander in scope. Alphabet would be able to use it as a huge real-life sandbox to put all of its upcoming innovations through their paces.

Ready for the future

As well as ubiquitous Wi-Fi and self-driving cars you might have robot delivery couriers and smart traffic light systems hooked up to one central system, for example. If you aren't restricted by ageing infrastructure that's already in place then you've got much more freedom to create something ready for the next century of city living.

Alphabet was created to look after Google and all its spin-offs last August, and the roster of enterprises under the company's umbrella is an impressive one: they cover artificial intelligence, health, internet access, satellite imagery, smart home tech, virtual reality and more besides.

For now, this is just a rumour, albeit one that makes a lot of sense for Sidewalk Labs and Alphabet. Representatives from the two companies refused to comment on the speculation, though Sidewalk Labs has already been involved in bringing Wi-Fi hotspots to New York and improving traffic flow across several US cities.

Google's latest flagship smartphone, the Nexus 6P:

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.