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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces Columbus, OH Winner of the $40 Million Smart City Challenge to Pioneer the Future of Transportation

Columbus, OH is the winner out of 78 cities that accepted the challenge, will receive up to $40 million from the Department of Transportation to prototype the future of transportation s as part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to accelerate game-changing technologies from self-driving cars to smart traffic lights to vehicle to vehicle communications.

Throughout this week, the Obama Administration will be highlighting America’s capacity for creativity and invention and how our innovative progress over the last seven and a half years has helped continue to make our economy the strongest and most durable in the world.  As part of this effort, today, the Administration is announcing that Columbus, OH is the winner of the Smart City Challenge.

In December 2015, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx issued an unprecedented challenge to U.S. cities. He called for cities to come up with a plan to reshape their transportation systems as part of a fully-integrated city that harnesses the power and potential of technology, data and creativity to reimagine how people and goods move. Through the Smart City Challenge, the Department committed up to $40 million, and private partners committed over $20 million to help make this Smart City vision a reality. Today, at an event in Columbus with Mayor Andrew Ginther and local community leaders, Secretary Foxx announced that Columbus, OH has been selected as the winner of the Smart City Challenge.

Revolutionary new transportation technologies and the smart use of data have the potential to save lives; give us back hours lost in traffic; reduce harmful carbon emissions; and provide greater dignity, mobility, and access to opportunity for millions of our fellow Americans. The Obama Administration is committed to accelerating these technologies and will be taking action this summer to facilitate the safe, efficient, commercial deployment of self-driving cars and vehicle to vehicle communication. In addition, the White House Smart Cities Initiative is investing over $160 million to grow the pipeline of technologies available to help cities solve pressing urban challenges.

The Smart City Challenge called on cities to do more than merely introduce new technologies onto city streets. Rather, the Challenge called on mayors to boldly envision new solutions that change the very face of transportation in our cities by closing the gap between rich and poor; capturing the needs of both old and young; and through smart design, bridging the digital divide so that the future of transportation meets the needs of all city residents, not just those who are technology savvy.

78 cities, including nearly every mid-sized city in America, answered the call by creating blueprints for the future of transportation today on their city streets. The seven finalist cities - Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, and San Francisco –have proposed first-of-a-kind use of these new technologies to solve the real-world challenges facing cities today, from self-driving shuttles that could cut in half the commute from underserved neighborhoods to centers of jobs and opportunity to the use of smart sensors to accelerate freight delivery while improving safety. Over 150 diverse industry and non-profit partners have pledged more than $500 million in resources, technology solutions, and support to help carry out these Smart City plans.

At its core, the Challenge is designed to advance progress in cities across the country – not just a single winning city. Already, the seven finalists have taken great strides in planning for adoption of new technologies and gaining commitments from a broad range of new private sector partners to help execute these visions. The Department and its federal partners are committed to helping all cities that applied to the Smart City Challenge identify resources to carry out their plans. Already, the Department has provided technical assistance to all 78 cities to help them identify and apply for approximately $6 billion in federal funding that cities could use for these innovative transportation projects. Interested cities should go here to learn more about resources available to help implement their Smart City plans.


Today, Columbus, OH has been selected to receive up to $40 million from the Department of Transportation to carry out its Smart City Plan. Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan, Inc. will provide an additional $10 million to Columbus, OH. And a range of national industry partners will provide the winning city with technology to help implement its plan, including NXP® Semiconductors, Amazon Web Services, Mobileye, Autodesk, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, AT&T, and DC Solar.

Columbus has a holistic vision for how technology can help all of its residents move better and access opportunity. Working with industry and philanthropic partners, the city has leveraged the Smart City Challenge to raise an additional $100 million in non-Federal resources to carry out its plan.

In its Smart City plan, Columbus will leverage a new central connected traffic signal and integrated transportation data system to address specific transportation challenges faced in four districts across the city. To address these challenges, the city will:

  •          Use transportation data analytics and improved first-mile-last-mile connections to public transportation – such as street-side mobility kiosks, a new bus-rapid transit system, and smart lighting to increase safety for pedestrians - to improve health care access in a neighborhood that currently has an infant mortality rate four times that of the national average, allowing Columbus to provide improved transportation options to those most in need of prenatal care and enable more Columbus residents to celebrate their first birthdays.
  •          Deploy fully electric self-driving shuttles on three fixed routes to connect a new bus rapid transit center to a retail district, connecting more residents to jobs and helping fuel the district’s growth.
  •          Equip city fleet, transit vehicles, and many intersections with connected vehicle technology to optimize traffic flow and demonstrate safety applications.
  •          Test connected vehicle technology in their freight district, including automated truck platooning and traffic signal management. The city will also work with freight operators to communicate parking availability both in the city and in the surrounding multi-state region.
  •          Address climate change by expanding their investment in electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, providing assistance to fleet operators to encourage EV adoption, creating customer education programs such as ride-and-drive events with local dealers, and create an EV cooperative buying program.
  •          Create an integrated payment system for residents to access transportation solutions throughout the city, regardless of whether they have a credit card or rely on cash, and offer a trip planning smart app to help residents plan their trips across many different modes and public and private operators.


The seven finalist cities rose to the Smart City Challenge in an extraordinary way, proposing first of a kind technology deployments and imaging novel solutions to the persistent challenges that plague our transportation system today. And the seven finalist cities have dared big – proposing to create new first of a kind corridors for autonomous vehicles to move city residents, to electrify city fleets, and to collectively equip over thirteen thousand buses, taxis, and cars with vehicle to vehicle communication.

The Department of Transportation and its federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, have formed the Smart City Challenge Collaborative, a commitment to working with these seven finalist cities to identify potential federal, state, local, and private resources to help carry out their Smart City plans. In addition, Vulcan, Inc. has announced a new commitment to provide additional funding to support the climate and electrification efforts of all seven cities.

The following highlights just a few examples of the revolutionary visions the seven Smart City finalists proposed. You can read each finalist city’s full application and a summary of technology trends across all 78 cities that applied here

  •          Austin, TX: The fastest growing city in the nation with over 100 new residents a day, Austin faces unique challenges with growing congestion and increasing commutes. To target the challenges facing its commuters, Austin has proposed to remake the traditional “park-and-ride” into a “one-stop shop” with even more mobility options including public transit buses, trains, car share, bike share, automated vehicles, and connected vehicles, to be strategically situated near community health centers, the community college, housing developments, and the airport.
  •          Denver, CO: Situated at the crossroads of three nationally important freight highways, Denver is applying its pioneering spirit to accelerate freight while improving safety. With partners like FedEx, Peloton, and UPS, Denver is equipping trucks with vehicle to vehicle communication technology to optimize routing and traffic signals and to experiment with connected, autonomous truck platooning, accelerating freight while reducing the impact on low-income neighborhoods that bear the brunt of this traffic flow today. 
  •          Kansas City, MO: Kansas City proposed to revitalize a historically black and underserved community by installing ubiquitous public Wi-Fi along sidewalks and on new electric, connected public buses, including on self-driving shuttles connecting underserved areas with the existing streetcar route. Each bus stop will have large-screen state-of-the-art kiosks to help residents access transportation information and will be equipped with voice-activated wayfinding technology to help the visual impaired navigate the city’s streets.
  •          Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh is proposing to cut in half the time it takes workers from Hazelwood, a historically underserved community, to reach the city’s urban jobs core by partnering with Carnegie Mellon, a pioneer of self-driving technology, to construct a thirty minute loop for autonomous shuttles. Throughout the city, Pittsburgh will also deploy state-of-the-art traffic signal technology – proven to reduce congestion at street lights by up to forty percent - to significantly reduce travel and idle time for all residents.
  •          Portland, OR: Portland proposed to launch the nation’s first bulk-buy program for used EVs to put affordable EVs in the hands of low-income drivers in demonstration corridors and promote electric car sharing and electric bike sharing in low-income communities. At the same time, Portland is partnering on autonomous vehicle demonstrations from campus shuttles and airport buses to self-driving taxis and tractor trailers. Portland is also developing a smart housing app with real transparency about the true cost of an apartment, including both rent and transportation costs.
  •          San Francisco, CA: San Francisco has set a goal of eliminating one out of every ten single occupant car trips by shifting travelers onto carpooling and public transit. To increase uptake of innovative carpooling and ridesharing models, San Francisco envisions a system of new carpooling HOV lanes and reserved curbside pickup areas. In addition, San Francisco has proposed using self-driving cars to shuttle passengers for the first and last mile onto public transit. The city, long a leader in innovation, has also proposed sharing its learnings with a tech transfer network of 50 cities and 25,000 transportation professionals.


Over 150 industry and non-profit partners stepped up to the challenge alongside the cities, pledging more than $500 million in resources and technology solutions. In addition to the resources pledged by companies and partners to individual cities, the Department of Transportation has announced private sector partnerships to outfit the winning city with new transportation technology solutions: 

Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.: Vulcan will provide an additional $10 million to the winning city to demonstrate “what’s possible” by transforming a city’s transportation system into one that is electrified and low-carbon, in addition to showcasing new ideas and bold innovations.

Mobileye: Mobileye will equip the every city bus in the winning city with their advanced collision warning and pedestrian detection technology to help bus drivers avoid traffic collisions and protect road users including bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists.

Autodesk: Autodesk will provide access to and training on its advanced virtual design and modeling platform that uses 3-D visualizations and real-world data to help the winning city plan the significant engineering and infrastructure projects needed to carry out its plan.

NXP: NXP will provide the contest’s winning city with vehicle-to-vehicle wireless communication modules that allow cars to securely exchange data, such as hazard warnings, over distances of more than a mile to prevent accidents and improve traffic flow.

Amazon Web Services: Amazon Web Services will provide solution architecture, best practices on managing the tremendous quantities of data produced in a Smart City, and $1 million of credits to use its cloud-based data services to warehouse this data.

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs: Sidewalk Labs will partner with the finalist cities on a first-of-a-kind transportation analytics platform using data from billions of miles of trips and citizen interactive input. Sidewalk Labs will install over 100 kiosks equipped with this mobility platform in four neighborhoods, roughly 25 blocks, of the winning city.

DC Solar: DC Solar Solutions will offer the winning city $1.5 million worth of electric vehicle chargers and mobile solar generators. In addition, DC Solar will assist all seven finalist cities in building strategies for electric vehicle charging infrastructure to encourage and facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles by individuals, businesses and municipalities.