Improving a city's mobility landscape is about more than just throwing hundreds of scooters onto the sidewalks. It's about coming up with clever ways to improve transportation for everyone, and for Ford's latest venture in Austin, it wants everyone in the city to chime in with their ideas and maybe get the money to flesh it out a bit.
Ford announced on Monday that it has launched the Austin City:One Challenge in Texas, with the help of the Austin Transportation Department's Smart Mobility arm. It's a crowdsourcing program of sorts, allowing Regular Joes and Janes to pitch mobility ideas and, if it has legs, people could receive up to $100,000 to test the ideas in pilot-project form.
Here's how it works. Austinites can head to the City:One Challenge's website to share their experiences with mobility in the city, and there are community workshop sessions that people can join, as well, to help come up with ideas and potential solutions. Ford, as well as its collaborators including Dell, AT&T and Microsoft, will help the ideas take shape and actual ideas can start being pitched in the last week of August. In October, a committee will pick 12 finalists who will then create a final proposal, and the top ideas will receive up to $100,000 in funding to see if those ideas really can help.
Again, the focus isn't on throwing more wheeled vehicles at the populace. The Austin City:One Challenge is more about improving access to the necessities like grocery stores and doctors' offices. It will place a priority on creating solutions for underserved communities and those who actually need better mobility options, not bros who are too lazy to walk six blocks to the next bar.
Austin is now the fourth city in which Ford has operated a City:One program this year, following Indianapolis, Detroit and Mexico City. Last year, Ford kicked off the initiative in Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade County and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Some of the winning ideas in 2018 included reducing student pick-up lines at schools and devising safer transportation methods for people who work night shifts.