Will DoT award Austin smart city grant funding during SXSW?
The U.S. Department of Transportation, looking ahead to smart city projects of the future, plans to award $160 million to improve traffic congestion, make cities safer, deal with climate change, improve access to city services and more.
The Smart City Challenge, part of the investment strategy, is described by the feds as a way to “concentrate federal resources into one medium-sized city, selected through a nationwide competition. Funding of up to $40 million … will go to one mid-sized city that puts forward bold, data-driven ideas to improve lives by making transportation safer, easier and more reliable.”
President Barak Obama praised the collaborative nature of the project.
“Every community is different, with different needs and different approaches,” the president said. “But communities that are making the most progress on these issues have some things in common. They don’t look for a single silver bullet; instead they bring together local government and nonprofits and businesses and teachers and parents around a shared goal.”
In total, 77 cities applied for the funding. In Texas, Austin and Lubbock both submitted applications.
“We knew there was pent-up demand out there for innovative, forward-looking efforts such as this,” said Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, in published comments. “The country is tired of being stuck in neutral. We’re in an age where the intersection of transport and tech is ever present, and yet because of funding constraints and a lack of vision, we haven’t been able to capitalize.”
Now, back to Austin where RCR Wireless News is headquartered. Austin is home to a large tech community comprising both startups and established players like Apple, Oracle, Dell and more; plus there’s a sizable presence in the silicon industry that earned Austin the nickname “Silicon Hills.”
Further, Austin attracted Google Fiber early on and actually has live connections. There’s also a preeminent telecom program at the University of Texas-Austin’s Wireless Networking and Communications Group. And, specific to transportation, Google is test driving its autonomous vehicles in the city, one of just three locations in the world.
Austin’s viability as the potential Smart City Challenge winner seems well-supported by the local scene; and RCR Wireless News has heard some chatter that a big announcement may be in the works.
There’s a little festival coming up March 11-20 called South by Southwest, which focuses on film, music and interactive technologies. With documented attendance of nearly 80,000 people – not to mention the folks in town for the side parties – seems like a great time to highlight Austin’s role in the United States’ ambitions for a future filled with smart cities.