Seven Finalist Cities Chosen For Smart City Challenge

Seven finalist cities have been chosen for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Smart City Challenge. USDOT has pledged up to $40 million to one city to help it define what it means to be a “Smart City “and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into its transportation network.

“The level of excitement and energy the Smart City Challenge has created around the country far exceeded our expectations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “After an overwhelming response – 78 applications total – we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

Smart City Challenge
Source: USDOT

The finalists are: Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA. The finalists were announced by Secretary Foxx at the C3 Connected Mobility Showcase being held during the South by Southwest conference (SXSW)

When the challenge was issued in December 2015, USDOT’s launch partner, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., announced its intent to award up to $10 million to the winning city to support electric vehicle deployment and other carbon emission reduction strategies.

“The creativity and determination of the applicants to envision a greener future represents the best of American ingenuity. It is this kind of belief in the power of new ideas that drives Paul Allen’s commitment to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Barbara Bennett, President and COO of Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. “As the Smart City Challenge’s philanthropic partner, we hope to catalyze a transportation transformation across the country that will dramatically drive down emissions from this leading source of carbon pollution.”

In addition to announcing the seven finalists, Secretary Foxx also announced a new Smart City Challenge partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), a secure cloud services platform, which will provide solution architecture and best practices guidance to the finalists to help them leverage AWS services for Smart City solutions, as well as award $1 million of credits to the Challenge winner for AWS Cloud services and AWS Professional Services. Furthermore, AWS will collaborate with USDOT on efforts to engage the startup community, and bring their ideas to the finalists. The credits, support, and collaboration will help the winning city design and build a truly Smart City on the AWS Cloud.

In this second phase of the competition, the seven finalists will receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their proposals. The winning city will be selected based on the ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how the city will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city. USDOT will work with each city to connect it with existing partnerships and support the final proposal with technical assistance.

Other partners that have already joined the Smart City Challenge include:

  • Mobileye will equip the winning city’s public bus system with their Mobileye’s Shield +TMon every bus which helps bus drivers avoid and mitigate imminent collisions and protect road users including bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists.
  • Autodesk will provide InfraWorks 360 and finalists will get access to (and training on) Infraworks 360, a modeling platform that uses 3-D visualizations and real-world data to plan major engineering projects.
  • NXP will provide the contest’s winning city with 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.


USDOT developed the Smart City Challenge as a response to the trends identified in the Beyond Traffic draft report. The report, issued last year, revealed that the nation’s aging infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a dramatically growing population in regions throughout the country.  It also identified a need to increase mobility options in developing megaregions – specifically mid-sized cities.

The winning city will be announced in June 2016.  You can view the list of cities that submitted applications for the Smart City Challenge or explore Smart City Challenge partnership opportunities here.