Would Google build a city from scratch? ‘Great idea’

Dan Doctoroff Footpath Labs sa100 2015
Footpath Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Imagine a city where Google self-driving cars zoom the street, all homes access their internet through Google Fibre, and data ruled everything.

Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Footpath Labs, the company Google created last year to improve urban areas through technology, said on stage at a summit hosted by The Information that building a city from scratch “would be a great idea.”

He was responding to a question about a tip that Footpath had hired consultants to consider doing just that.

“Thinking about [a city] from the Internet up is really compelling,” he continued, after noting that he wouldn’t speak to any of Footpath’s actual plans.

Footpath, a standalone subsidiary under Google parent company Alphabet, currently has two public projects, one to provide free WiFi in New York City and another to use anonymized data to understand traffic and congestion.

It has grand plans to tackle issues like cost of living, efficient transportation, and energy use.

On stage, Doctoroff added that building a new city could be “a labooratory to experiment” with solutions to cybersecurity and privacy issues. That rhetoric aligns with the thoughts of Alphabet CEO Larry Page who mused a couple years back about setting aside part of the world to test different experiements outisde the bounds of law or reguatlion.

“Cities are hard,” Doctoroff said. “You have people with vested interest, politics, physical space… But the technology ultimately cannot be stopped.”

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