A secret subsidy of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is planning to completely revolutionize public parking and transportation, according to a new report that shines a light on the ambitious initiative.
The mysterious company is Sidewalk Labs, and has begun offering cities its high-tech services, which claim to make it easier to drive and park by creating a hybrid of public and private transportation options that utilize ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
“When governments and technologists collaborate, there is an enormous potential to reimagine the way we approach urban mobility,” Anand Babu, COO of Sidewalk Labs, told The Guardian.
The first city to use Sidewalk Labs’ tech could be Columbus, Ohio. The city recently won a $50 million Smart City Challenge by the US Department of Transportation, after which Sidewalk offered to let Columbus use its cloud software, Flow, for a three-year demonstration parking.
Flow’s biggest advantage is its ability to track available parking spaces in real-time, allowing users to book a spot and pay for it from an app. The software also finds the best routes for parking police to dole out tickets, which could raise significant extra money for cities at the expense of citizens.
Sidewalk’s proposal isn’t without controversy, though, as part of its plan calls for transport subsidies for ride-sharing services like Uber to be given to low-income residents. It would also require cities to upgrade to Sidewalk’s own mobile payments system, after many places have already invested in other options.