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Seventy-seven municipalities pitched their transportation visions for a shot at the $40 million in winnings.
The U.S. Department of Transportation called and 77 cities answered the agency’s first-ever Smart City Challenge —an “overwhelming response,” according to federal officials.
Expecting rapid population growth and accompanying stress on public transit in midsize cities during the next few decades, the department asked municipalities to submit mobility plans incorporating data and technology.
Boston, Miami and Anchorage were among the entrants that suggested integrating innovations like automated vehicles and ridesharing into intelligent transportation systems.
“I'm impressed by the response from civic leaders around the country,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote in a Tuesday blog post . “It seems clear that our cities understand that—in order to plan for the future—they need to begin embracing the technology and innovation occurring today and in development for tomorrow.”
Granted the $40 million in federal funding promised to the winner is a powerful motivator, along with $10 million from Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Inc. for curbing carbon emissions—a package intended to create a model of mobility.
The winner will also receive free installation of Mobileye Shield+ safety technology for their bus fleet, as the challenge also looks to promote public-private partnerships addressing transportation problems. More than 300 other companies have expressed interest in helping participating cities.
The winning mobility solution won’t be the best across the board but, rather, the one that best meets the proposing city’s needs.
Forums and webinars highlighting transportation innovations and hosted by the #DOTsmartcity team have informed challenge contestants, which had until Thursday “to submit a high-level description of their vision.”
DOT will announce five finalists on March 12 at the SXSW emerging tech conference and music and film festival in Austin, Texas. Those finalists will be given $100,000 and technical assistance from Vulcan to polish their concept and develop applications for final selection in June.
“The extensive interest this Challenge has generated demonstrates the tremendous opportunity to transform our country’s transportation systems,” said Barbara Bennett, Vulcan’s president and COO, in an announcement . “Electrification of transportation will play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gases.”
The full list of Smart City Challenge applicants is here .
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.