Technology billionaire Bill Gates is to build the world’s first purpose built smart city – with driverless cars and state of the art connectivity.
Belmont, Arizona, which will house around 160,000 people in 80,000 homes, will embrace “cutting-edge technology” throughout the city, which is to be built on a desert area currently occupied by just a few dozen people.
The $80 million (£61m) project is to be created by the computing giant’s investment firm, Belmont Partners, on a 25,000 acre site at Tonopah, 45 minutes from the city of Phoenix.
It will comprise office, commercial and retail space, while 470 acres will be used for state schooling and 3,400 acres for parks and other open space. Internet connectivity will be embedded as it is built, while smarter manufacturing methods will also be used.
The company said: “Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model.
“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centres, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs.”
It added: “The new investment will help Belmont become a template for the development of a sustainable city capitalising on cutting-edge infrastructure.”
The announcement comes just weeks after Alphabet, the parent company of Google, revealed plans to redevelop a waterside area of Toronto, which it called a “a test bed for the combination of technology and urbanism”.
Few details have as yet been revealed about when construction on Belmont will begin – or who is likely to live in the city. Temperatures in the area can reach as high as 45C in the summer months.
According to the 2010 census, there were just 60 people living in the Tonopah area, although plans revealed in 2009 to propose the incorporation of the area into a town met objections from the neighbouring town of Buckeye.
Brooks Rainwater, the director of the City Solutions and Applied Research Center at the National League of Cities, welcomed the development. He said: “The experimentation has the potential to demonstrate the viability of new smart city concepts and serve as an example for cities nationwide and globally.”
Ronald Schott, an expert at Arizona Technology Council, said: “Bill Gates is known for innovation and I think he picked the right place. Finally, Arizona’s getting recognised for being a place for innovation.”
Paul Babeu, former sheriff of Arizona’s Pinal County, tweeted: “The Jetsons come to Arizona. Excited that Bill Gates firm bought 25,000 acres of land in Tonopah.”