Ohio town wins America’s $50m smart city challenge

Columbus, Ohio, has won a $50m prize for its plans to smarten up its transport system. The money is made up of a $40m Smart Cities grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT), a $90m fund put up by private sector partners and a further $10m from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s charity Vulcan, which will be used to finance electric vehicle infrastructure.

The city was in competition with six other finalists for the money. The list, which was announced in March, also included:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado 
  • Kansas City, Missouri     
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 
  • Portland, Oregon   
  • San Francisco, California.

The DOT has announced that it "will collaborate with government and private sector partners to help all seven finalist cities" move forward with ideas that they have developed, not just Columbus.

An account of the other cities’ plans can be viewed here.

Columbus said that there were three pillars to its entry:

  1. Assisting vulnerable populations
  2. Economic development
  3. An enhanced sustainable transit system.

Senator Sherrod Brown said: "This funding is a game changer for the City of Columbus and central Ohio. I’m glad the DOT recognised what so many of us already know – Columbus is a smart city that deserves to win this challenge."

The city plans for automated vehicles to connect employees to Easton, one of Columbus’ largest job centres.

A smart phone app will be launched, allowing drivers to see "real-time traffic, parking and transit options".

The city will also encourage residents to car-share and use electric vehicles, and has pledged that it will give students of all ages "unprecedented access to education" through connectivity.

Columbus’ partners on the project included Ohio State University, Battelle Memorial Institute and IBM’s Client Centre for Advanced Analytics.

The city expects "these efforts to sprout new technology companies in Columbus and relocate existing companies to the new Silicon Valley of intelligent transportation systems".

Image: The Columbus, Ohio skyline (Wikimedia Commons/Tysto)

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