Smart City in the Heartland
For the past year, the US DOT prepared and promoted it’s US$40 million Smart City Challenge. Last week, they announced the winner. Beating out heavyweights like San Francisco, Austin and Denver, Columbus, Ohio won the grant, which came to US$50 million, with Vulcan‘s US$10 million contribution. Now, the plan is to turn the city into a living laboratory to create a series of transferable mobility best practices. Notably, Columbus’ plan focuses largely on wellbeing, safety and equity, rather than surveillance on every street corner and self-driving cars in every garage. It includes targeted interventions to improve connections to under-served and marginalized neighbourhoods, as well as plans to reduce traffic collisions, including new technology for buses. The winning proposal also includes platooning technology for freight traffic and agreements with a range of private partners to implement EV charging stations. It’s the partnerships with private partners that may have put Columbus ahead of its rivals. In addition to the US$50 million awarded through the Smart City Challenge, the city secured an additional US$90 million from private partners including Amazon, Lyft and AT&T, among others. This partnership model might be the first “best practice” to emerge from Columbus. Is this high tech partnership in America’s heartland a template on which the smart city will be built?