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Columbus wins $50 million to implement self-driving shuttles, new transit options

The Department of Transportation announced Columbus, Ohio, as the winner of its Smart City Challenge, a $50 million grant to improve transit options in a midsize city.

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that Columbus, Ohio, beat out six other finalists to win its Smart City Challenge, based on its proposal to integrate new technologies into a unified urban transportation plan. The city will receive a $50 million grant to implement three electric self-driving shuttles and to provide better transit options to neighborhoods with critical health needs.

DOT launched the Smart City Challenge in December. The winning city will receive a $50 million grant to develop new transportation technologies with the goal of reducing congestion and improving the environment. Limited to medium-sized cities, defined as having a population between 200,000 and 850,000, the DOT received 78 proposals, and narrowed the list down to seven finalists in March.

The grant consists of $40 million from the DOT, and another $10 million from Paul Allen's Vulcan investment company. Along with the grant money, Columbus also raised another $90 million from technology partners.

With the money, Columbus will buy three electric self-driving shuttles, providing a link between a new transit center and a retail area. It will also develop a data model to figure out how to offer better transit options to a neighborhood with a very high infant mortality rate.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said, "Smart Columbus will deliver an unprecedented multimodal transportation system that will not only benefit the people of central Ohio, but potentially all midsized cities."

The proposal from Columbus beat out competing proposals from Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco.