The Columbus Dispatch is reporting this afternoon that Columbus, OH is the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge for transportation innovation. The paper is stating that Columbus beat out San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Kansas City, Denver and Pittsburgh for the honors, and will receive $40 million from the DOT and another $10 million from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. as a result.
As part of their commitment to the project, Columbus’s local business community early on agreed to match those numbers by nearly 2 to 1 to add an additional $90 million to the total.
I reached out to the offices of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and also Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown for confirmation, but have not received comment at this point.
The DOT also could not comment or confirm the win, and instead sent me the their official press release, which doesn’t specifically name Columbus as the winner. Instead that release states that:
“The Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced that it will collaborate with government and private sector partners to help all seven finalist cities in the Smart City Challenge — not just the challenge winner — move forward with ideas that each city developed over the past six months.”
That’s good news for the non-winners, I suppose.
As background, the DOT press release further states that:
“The original Smart City Challenge was launched in December 2015 by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Vulcan President and Chief Operating Officer Barbara Bennett as an innovative competition for cities to reshape their transportation systems harnessing the power of technology, data and creativity to reimagine how people and goods move throughout cities. Seventy-eight cities submitted entries to the competition, and in March, seven finalists were selected. Each finalist then prepared a full proposal, and the mayors of the seven cities presented their final pitches at a live event in Washington, DC in early June.”
Ultimately — according to transportation.gov — the mission of the Smart City Challenge is to “pledge up to $40 million (funding subject to future appropriations) to one city to help it define what it means to be a ‘Smart City’ and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies — self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors — into their transportation network.”
While it is unclear to me at this time where Columbus’s burgeoning startup community would fit into this potential opportunity, it’s not hard to imagine many of the logistics and machine learning startups in town being able to get involved, since autonomous vehicles appear to be a big output focus of the competition.
An official update is planned for Thursday. I’ll update as this story develops.