Columbus Wins Smart City Challenge

Government plays a leading role in the growth of smart technologies. Columbus, Ohio, recently showed off some of its smarts by winning a national competition of cities that focused on the use of smart technology in the transportation sector.

In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded the top prize to Columbus in the Smart City Challenge, a competition that called on cities to envision new solutions that would “change the face of transportation,” using technology to help “meet the needs of all city residents.”

For the competition, DOT received 78 applications, representing every midsize city in the country.

Columbus was one of seven finalists, along with Austin, Texas; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco. Proposals included such innovative concepts as corridors for autonomous vehicles, electrified city fleets, and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications on taxis, cars and buses.

The winning application from Columbus included proposals such as electric self-driving shuttles to help residents get from a bus rapid transit center to their jobs in a nearby retail district and using data analytics to improve access to transportation and prenatal care in an underserved neighborhood with a high infant-mortality rate.

Columbus will receive up to $40 million from the DOT and up to $10 million from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. to supplement the $90 million that the city has already raised from other private partners.

Public-private partnerships were an important element in the funding of the competition. In addition to Vulcan, partners included AT&T,, Continental Automotive and others. Collectively, the finalist cities leveraged the DOT grant money to raise more than $500 million in private funding. 

About the Author

Rick Laezman

Freelance Writer

Rick Laezman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been covering renewable power for more than 10 years. He may be reached at

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