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DoT announces Smart City Challenge finalists during SxSW

Smart City Challenge finalists competing for $50 million in support of transportation innovation

AUSTIN, Texas – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the seven finalist cities in the Smart City Challenge funding completion. Austin, Texas, was among the seven finalists, with Foxx making the announcement during the cities iconic South by Southwest Interactive exhibition.

Each of the seven finalists, culled from an initial group of 78 applicants, are set to receive $100,000 to further develop plans to integrate sensors, connected vehicles, self-driving cars and other intelligent traffic infrastructure. The winning city is set to receive $40 million in federal funding to further the development. The other finalists include Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco.

“The level of excitement and energy the Smart City Challenge has created around the country far exceeded our expectations,” Foxx said. “After an overwhelming response – 78 applications total – we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

“We really need to find the new technologies that are going to enable us to use our existing infrastructure smarter, in more innovative ways,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “For a city our size, with the number of people, [traffic is] terrible, everybody knows that. It’s having street lights talking to cars as they approach, it’s having emergency vehicles be able to talk to drivers so the car that you’re in knows an emergency vehicle is coming before you even see an emergency vehicle.”

Foxx also announced the Smart City Challenge is partnering with cloud provider Amazon Web Services, which will provide a $1 million credit to the contest winner. According to officials, “AWS will collaborate with U.S. DoT on efforts to engage the startup community, and bring their ideas to the finalists. The credits, support and collaboration will help the winning city design and build a truly smart city on the AWS Cloud.”

With an additional $10 million pledged from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, the winning city could see funding hit $50 million.

As for some of the city plans, Columbus proposed a network of autonomous shuttles; Portland envisioned linking electric vehicle charging stations to its street lighting; and Denver wants to improve multimodal transportation with an eye on efficiency.

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