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Columbus Wins U.S. DOT's Smart City Challenge

The city will get more than $100 million in government and private-sector money to implement high-tech, futuristic transportation ideas.

by / June 21, 2016

Columbus, Ohio, is the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $50 million Smart City Challenge. It will receive not only that money, but another $90 million from a local business coalition and a sizable portfolio of hardware, software and support services from technology companies.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, broke the news June 21 on his website.

The competition has been about catapulting forward local transportation innovation, deploying emerging technologies such as automated driving, connected vehicles and ubiquitous sensor technology on the ground in such a way that other cities can learn lessons and follow along.

Columbus’ plan revolves around five strategies: promoting access to jobs, making logistics smarter, connecting visitors, connecting citizens and making transportation more sustainable. The city’s specific plans include:

  • Deploying electric, connected, self-driving vehicles to help bridge the “first and last mile” gap to public transit.
  • Setting up a “smart corridor” where vehicles connect with infrastructure and other vehicles to support bus rapid transit.
  • Bringing digital mobility services such as ride-sharing to citizens who don’t use digital forms of payment.
  • Crafting incentives to build more electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Creating applications to help truck drivers navigate the city more efficiently and avoid congested traffic.

The city's full proposal is available here.

Of the $50 million, $10 million is earmarked specifically for projects related to electric vehicles.

Aside from that, Columbus will have a lot of tech services to choose from. Sidewalk Labs, part of Alphabet, is offering data-gathering kiosks and access to a brand-new transportation analytics platform. Amazon is offering cloud services. Mobileye is offering to equip buses with pedestrian and cyclist detection and avoidance systems. Local Motors is prepared to deploy talking, electric, self-driving shuttles.

Columbus beat out six other finalist cities to win the competition: Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Austin, Texas; and Pittsburgh. Representatives from several of those cities have said that if they didn't win the challenge, they would still forge ahead with their plans as best as they could.

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