The feds are 'blown away' by Smart City Challenge submissions

The Department of Transportation's call for visions of connected cities received 77 submissions, with 300 companies offering partnerships.

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USDOT Smart City Challenge

Both the public and private sectors have expressed interest in helping build the connected city of the future.

US Department of Transportation

Back in December, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the Smart City Challenge, through which midsize cities can compete for up to $50 million in funding to develop the connected city of the future. As of Friday, the DOT has finished collecting submissions, and it's been taken aback by how many groups got involved.

As of this writing, 77 cities submitted proposals, and 300 companies are trying to get involved through those different cities as well. "We knew there was pent-up demand out there for innovative, forward-looking efforts such as this," Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a phone interview with Roadshow.

"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," said the Secretary.

Cities as far and wide as Anchorage, Alaska; Kansas City, Missouri; and New Haven, Connecticut have submitted proposals for solving future transportation issues. From this point, the 77 will be whittled down to just five finalists, which will be announced at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, on March 12.

Smart City Challenge Applicant Map - Final Version
Enlarge Image
Smart City Challenge Applicant Map - Final Version

This infographic provides a more detailed look at the 77 submissions the government received.

US Department of Transportation

Each finalist will receive $100,000 to fine-tune its proposals, and a winner will be selected in June. The winner receives up to $50 million to make their vision happen, $10 million of which is coming from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's philanthropic organization, Vulcan.

While the challenge has centered on midsized cities only, Foxx said that many more can learn from what's coming down the pipeline. "Our belief is that learnings [gleaned from this program] ... will help provide insights and thoughts for both larger and smaller communities. We picked the middle range because it has the promise of things that can be replicable by both large and small communities."

Even if the next administration doesn't continue with its own Smart City Challenge, the Secretary believes this is a dialogue that will continue for some time. "There's no reason why this competition should be the end of the vision," he said.