Columbus completes Smart City Challenge, looks to the future as collaborative innovation lab
Building on the recent successful conclusion of the Smart City Challenge (SCC), the City of Columbus has announced it is looking forward and Smart Columbus will become a collaborative innovation lab as it continues the development of new innovations to benefit its residents.
The SCC was created by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to evaluate a holistic approach to using new technologies to improve transportation performance, and how that approach could be integrated with other smart city domains, including public services, health, safety and energy. Columbus was named the SCC winner in 2016.
“They were really looking for that mid-sized city to accelerate technology deployment that was focused on data in transportation mobility,” said Mandy Bishop, Smart Columbus program manager. “We really looked at some of the challenges we were facing as a community and developed an application around that.”
Over the five-year program, using the $50 million SCC awards from the USDOT and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, along with $19 million in city, state and county cost-sharing, Columbus deployed a comprehensive portfolio of mobility technologies that showed how safer and more equitable transportation options create opportunity for residents now and in the future.
“If you think about the future of transportation, you can break it down into Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric—CASE,” Bishop said. “We needed to future-proof our economy when it came to transportation. The portfolio reflected that.”
Bishop said that prior to the pandemic, approximately 85 percent of Columbus residents drove personal vehicles to where they needed to be, so some projects were connected to vehicle technology, designed to give people more information when they drive. They also looked at shared mobility and deployed Pivot, a trip-planning app for people using the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) system that helped connect people with first/last mile options like scooters, ride share and ride hail options. Pivot is available at kiosks at smart mobility hubs in the city as well.
Smart Columbus also launched autonomous, self-driving shuttles in February 2020, but the outbreak of COVID altered plans because people suddenly didn’t need to be moved around.
“We saw food pantry usage soaring nationally, and it was also soaring in our community,” Bishop said. “We redeployed the shuttles to bring food boxes and bags into our largest public housing development in the central Ohio region, which is Roseland.”
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