Columbus Ohio wins DOT smart city challenge

Columbus wins Smart City Challenge

Columbus, Ohio, beat out six other innovative cities to win the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.

“The Smart City Challenge required each city to think about transportation as cross-functional, not in silos, but as a transportation ecosystem,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the announcement.

Columbus’ proposal “demonstrated that the future of transportation is not just about using technology to make our systems safer and more efficient, it’s about using these advanced tools to make life better for all people, especially those living in underserved communities,” he said.

One of the initiatives that stood out in Columbus’ bid was its goal to improve the city’s infant mortality rate. City officials said they believe that improving transportation options in the city could help connect expectant mothers to better healthcare.

In addition to the $40 million in funding from the Transportation Department and another $10 million from Vulcan Inc., Columbus will receive technology and assistance from Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, Mobileye, NXP, AT&T, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, DC Solar and Continental Automotive to support autonomous vehicle testing, electric vehicles, collision avoidance technology for buses, geospatial and engineering building modeling, solar power initiatives and other initiatives.

The city also lined up around $90 million in funding from private and public partners, bringing the total to $140 million, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Plans for the city include a payment system for public transportation and app-enabled car services; autonomous vehicle testing; development and implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology to reduce accidents and optimize traffic flow; electric vehicles and charging stations, carbon emission reduction strategies; and the implementation of smart traffic lights to adjust traffic patterns.

The city will also enhance the timeliness and quality of the traffic condition data and develop a routing app to improve reliability and operational efficiencies for trucks. Also it plans to fund a private sector app for events in the city that will provide real-time information on traffic and parking.

“To be the winner is truly an honor,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said during a conference call announcing the win. “This is a game changer for us as we’re the fastest growing city in the Midwest, and winning the grant puts us in position to leap ahead and create new opportunities in mobility and technology.”

More than 70 cities across the nation applied for the challenge that called for them to use knowledge, data and technology to improve transportation systems and ease the burden of travel on residents.

Austin, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Kansas City, Mo; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland, Ore., and San Francisco were picked as finalists along with Columbus. The other finalist cities will continue on with their projects with  help from government and private sector partners.

The Smart City Challenge was a direct response to trends identified in DOT’s Beyond Traffic report that called for innovation solutions to transportation management that address the nation’s aging infrastructure and growing population.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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