Columbus may have won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, but that doesn’t mean the six other finalist cities won’t get to implement their ideas.
Vulcan, a private investment firm that’s giving $10 million to Columbus to support electric vehicles, announced this week that it's striking up a partnership with some huge names in transportation and several federal agencies to help provide funding and resources for the other finalists to implement some of their ideas. Vulcan haspartnered with the DOT, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. The companies involved in the project include General Motors, Nissan, Daimler, Lyft, Uber, Bridj and DC Solar.
Representatives from several of the six other finalists — Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Austin, Texas; and Pittsburgh — already indicated in earlier stages of the challenge that they intended to pursue many of their projects regardless of whether they won the $50 million prize. Some, like Kansas City, were already working on many of the projects they included in their challenge proposals.
Now those cities will have outside help in making their transportation technology projects happen. Vulcan pledged to continue offering money for electric vehicle and climate change-related projects — and to bring in more money from third parties to support those efforts as well. The DOT is offering assistance in finding, applying for and receiving grant money for various projects. The DOE is making data and modeling services available to support project development.
They will also have support from several of the companies that jumped in to offer their services to the winner of the challenge — NXP, Amazon Web Services, Mobileye, Autodesk, Sidewalk Labs and AT&T, along with DC Solar.
Because the DOT asked the Smart City Challenge entrants to shape their proposals around 12 subject areas, many of the finalists’ plans share commonalities. They all support the testing or deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as some sort of vehicle electrification project. The efforts also involve deploying quite a bit of data-gathering infrastructure, as well as setting up systems to analyze that data and put it into use.
In a conference call June 23 where the challenge’s organizers officially announced Columbus as the winner — a U.S. senator broke the news two days earlier — Vulcan President and Chief Operating Officer Barbara Bennett said that the intent behind the initiative was to get a lot of cities working on forward-looking transportation projects. Columbus will not only be testing out those concepts, but inviting other transportation officials to learn about them so they can be deployed across the country.
“The model Columbus is establishing is going to inform and inspire change elsewhere,” Bennett said.