Sidewalk Labs steps up for Smart Cities Challenge

Sidewalk Labs steps up for Smart City Challenge

Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that it’s partnering with Sidewalk Labs to create a new analytics platform called Flow that will use aggregated, anonymized data from billions of miles of trips to identify sources of congestion in areas that are undeserved by transit.

Sidewalk Labs, a unit of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), is an urban innovation company creating tools that apply technology, policy best practices and capital to real-word problems. Flow, which will be developed with help from the seven finalists in DOT’s Smart City Challenge, will help cities understand how roads are being used and how people may respond to policy, infrastructure or technology changes. The winning city in the challenge, which will be announced in June, will have Flow deployed at no cost.

Additionally, Sidewalk Labs plans to install 100 on-street kiosks across four underserved neighborhoods of the winning city. The kiosks will provide free Wi-Fi and real-time transit information for those without a smartphone or a data plan. The kiosks also will help with parking, and real-time traffic and transit routing. Similar free, high-speed Wi-Fi kiosks are now being deployed across New York City by Intersection, a company formed by Sidewalk Labs in June 2015.

Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said he believes the biggest problem facing cities today is congestion. Increased traffic and aging infrastructure are forcing lower-income residents to travel further and pay more for transportation.

“Unequal transportation has become a barrier to social mobility, but the answer can’t be to build more roads when we are struggling to maintain the ones we have,” Doctoroff said.

“By embracing smart technologies and concepts that eliminate the digital divide, strengthen connections to jobs and remove physical barriers to access, we can strengthen communities throughout the country," Foxx said. “Our partnership with Sidewalk Labs will help cities engage citizens, improve access to mobility and help cities manage evolving transportation challenges.”

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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