The City of Austin is fighting to win up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million from Vulcan Philanthropy, Paul Allen’s investment company, in the Smart City Challenge.
To gather information on how other smart cities are operating, recently Mayor Steve Adler traveled to Amsterdam, a city in which 50 percent of people travel daily by bicycle. Amsterdam converted itself to a more bicycle friendly city after several tragic bicycle accidents involving children in the 1970s, according to Mayor Adler’s post.
“First off, a Smart City is a city in which data is captured from all aspects of urban life and then that data is employed to improve its residents’ quality of life,” Mayor Adler wrote in his post. “This could take a thousand different forms, such as traffic lights that monitor traffic levels and patterns, time of day, weather, events in the area, and then which adjust syncing and timing to minimize traffic delay. In other words, the kind of thing we’re working on with the Smart City Challenge.”
Austin is one of seven finalists for the Smart City Challenge. The other finalists are Columbus, OH, Denver, CO., Kansas City, MO, Pittsburgh, PA, Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA. The DOT announced in March that it will award up to $40 million to one city that submits the best proposal for what it means to be a “Smart City” and that pledges to become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies such as self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors into its transportation network.
The Department of Transportation received proposals from 78 cities. The seven finalists received $100,000 each to refine their proposals for the final competition.
Initially, Austin submitted a 30 page proposal outlining its problems with traffic and congestion and solutions to fix the problem. Among them, the city proposed “automated and connected vehicles, electric fleets, sensor systems, travel access hubs and packaged mobility service.” Those ideas include innovations like parcel delivery by unmanned drones to alleviate traffic congestion on the roads. It also includes a plan to partner with General Motors and Lyft to deploy large numbers of GM electric Transportation Network Companies, known as TNCs, and taxi vehicles.
During the second phase selection process, the “winning city will be selected based on their ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how they will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city,” according to the DOT. The DOT plans to announce the winner of the competition in June.