Ohio on a Roll: Columbus claims Smart City prize

Just days after Cleveland OH saw the 52-year championship drought for its professional sports teams mercifully come to an end, another Ohio city now has won another big national prize.

Yesterday in Washington DC, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that Columbus, OH has been selected as winner of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (USDOT) Smart City Challenge. As winner, Columbus will receive up to $40 million from USDOT, plus another $10 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen to supplement the $90 million that the city has already raised from other private partners to carry out its plan. With these resources, Columbus will work to reshape its transportation systems to serve a fully-integrated city that harnesses the power and potential of big data, machine technology, and human ingenuity to move people and goods through a 21st century metropolis.

“Each of the seven finalists put forward an array of thoughtful, intelligent, and innovative ideas that defined a vision for the future of the American city,” said Secretary Foxx, referencing pitches made by Austin TX; Denver CO; Kansas City MO; Pittsburgh PA; Portland OR; and San Francisco CA. The seven finalists were chosen in March from an initial field of 78 competitors. “While Columbus is the winner of the Challenge, we believe each city has come out of this process with a stronger sense of how to address transportation challenges with technology and innovation,” added Foxx.

“While Columbus is the winner… we believe each city has come out of this process with a stronger sense of how to address transportation challenges with technology and innovation”

— Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

“We are thrilled to be America’s first Smart City,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. “Our collaboration between public, private and nonprofit sectors is the perfect example of how we lift up our residents and connect all communities. ‘Smart Columbus’ will deliver an unprecedented multimodal transportation system that will not only benefit the people of central Ohio, but potentially all mid-sized cities.” (To see the city’s pitch video, scroll to the top of the page. For other cities, see below.)

Announced by USDOT last year, the Challenge had called upon cities to do more than just introduce new street smart tech. Instead, the aim was to push urban transportation planners to envision new solutions ahead of the looming population explosion forecast for cities worldwide over the next 20-30 years. In so doing, technology could help cities replace existing infrastructure in failing health with smart systems that would work much more effectively and last longer. And improved transportation options will also help to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor; big cities and small; even among nations.

  • AFRICA’s 1st SMART CITY? Read about the deal Lagos, Nigeria, and Dubai just signed. Click here.

The seven finalists presented concepts that included first-of-its-kind corridors for autonomous vehicles to move city residents, to electrify city fleets, and collectively to equip over 13,000 buses, taxis, and cars with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication.

  • < PITTSBURGH PA >  (Click below to watch the city’s short #SmartCityPitch.)

Given the fiscal straits that many cities are in, public-private partnerships (P3s) also have played a key role in the Challenge. USDOT announced related partnerships with Paul Allen‘s 30-year-old investment firm Vulcan, Inc.; cloud partner Amazon Web Services; NXP SemiconductorsMobileyeAutodesk, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs; AT&T Smart Cities; DC Solar; and Continental Automotive. In addition, these seven cities were able to leverage U.S. DOT’s $40 million grant to raise nearly $500 million more in funding from a diverse group of more than 150 partners.

“One of this competition’s greatest strengths is how it has incentivized leaders across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to collaborate,” said Vulcan’s Allen. Added Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, “The public and private sectors are generally viewed as at odds with one another, but [this effort] proves that we can indeed work together to address the challenges facing our cities… [and] to envision and plan a more intelligent, sustainable urban future.”

  • < SAN FRANCISCO CA >  (Click below to watch the city’s short #SmartCityPitch.)

One winner, zero losers

USDOT and sister agencies, including the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), the Dept. of Energy (DOE), and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), have committed to keep working collaboratively with all seven finalists to identify potential federal, state, local, and private resources to help carry out their Smart City plans. In addition, Vulcan Inc. has announced a new commitment to provide additional funding to support the climate and electrification efforts of all seven cities.

“Climate change is a complex challenge, and it will take all of us working together to develop innovative, scalable solutions,” said Allen. “It is my hope that cities across the country will draw from and adapt the ideas from the Smart City Challenge to transform their transportation networks and to help put their communities on a more sustainable path.”

Time will tell, of course, but for now, the path toward a smarter urban future starts in Columbus OH.