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Columbus, U.S. Completes Smart City Challenge

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.

The government was really looking for that mid-sized city to accelerate technology deployment that was focused on data in transportation mobility. We really looked at some of the challenges we were facing as a community and developed an application around that.

Smart Columbus program manager

Over the five-year program, using the $50 million SCC awards from the USDOT and a Foundation, along with $19 million in the 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.

Before the pandemic, approximately 85% 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, rideshare 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 did not need to be moved around. Columbus added about 2,300 direct and indirect jobs, they were able to account for over $700 million in aligned investment and it is had some tangible economic impact.

However, the situation also made Columbus more visible as it is ‘America’s Smart City,’ and companies are coming there to do more business. U.S. Department of Transportation has shared that they are the number one autonomous vehicle testing centre in the country now. They can help the residents, invent more cutting-edge technologies. They are being a leader in the transportation space, bringing in more jobs and opportunities.

The City of Columbus and the Columbus Partnership have announced that Smart Columbus will be sustained as an agile, collaborative innovation lab that benefits the Columbus Region by anticipating and advancing what is new and next at the intersection of technology and community good.

When we deploy technology in partnership with the community, we can address some of our most pressing challenges. Smart Columbus will continue to explore how mobility innovation, climate technologies, digitalisation and other emerging technologies can help us address complex societal problems, respond to disruption and generate economic opportunity.

Columbus Mayor

Smart Columbus is partnering with the city and the Columbus Foundation in a methodology that they are adopting into their innovation practice called Human Centred Design, which reaches out to residents for feedback on what problems the community needs solutions to.

Equity and inclusion are a big part of what the Human Centred Design is all about, such as making sure lived experience experts are at the table, shaping this, providing feedback, getting at the core issues, and weighing in, so this is not just technology for technology’s sake and blind of all sensitivities. This allows moving forward with the community.

Throughout the SCC and beyond, Smart Columbus and its partners have put community involvement at the forefront of developing and implementing new technologies, making them an example for cities across the country, and the world. The city is one of 50 Champion Cities selected by prestigious philanthropies as part of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge.

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