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U.S. DOT Announces 77 Applicants for Smart City Challenge

Cities large and small from across the country have submitted applications for the $50 million contest.

There is ample competition in the race to deploy high-tech transportation solutions in U.S. cities — or at least, to find funding for that deployment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which is hosting a “smart city” challenge with a grand prize worth more than $50 million, announced Monday Feb. 8 that 77 cities have submitted proposals for the contest. The entrants spanned most of the states and ranged from small municipalities such as Brookhaven, Ga., to established metropolises such as San Francisco and Boston.

The challenge asked cities to submit high-level ideas that leverage emerging technologies to solve traffic-related problems. At this point, the details of the applications haven’t been revealed, but according to the press release, the department will announce five finalists at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, on March 12. The department will give each finalist $100,000 to further develop their proposals before selecting an overall winner in June.

The grand prize at this point includes contributions from three different entities: the Department of Transportation is offering $40 million; Seattle-based investment firm Vulcan is adding another $10 million; and the transportation tech firm Mobileye has promised to outfit the winning city’s bus fleet with a driver safety alert system.

The department specifically designed the contest to benefit mid-sized cities, which it identified as being most in need of high-tech transportation solutions to confront the problems that aging infrastructure will bring. And while the list of applicants includes many mid-sized cities — Reno, Nev.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Akron, Ohio, for instance — it also includes some of the largest cities in the nation. Among the participants are Detroit; Pittsburgh; San Jose, Calif.; and Jacksonville, Fla.


Smart Cities
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.