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Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs joins the Smart City Challenge

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs joins the Smart City Challenge

Last weekend, I traveled to South by Southwest to announce the seven city finalists of our Smart City Challenge, a competition to help one mid-sized U.S. city create a fully integrated, first-of-its-kind transportation network that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future.

Each of these finalists will receive $100,000 to build out their vision, including submitting budgets and expanding their proposals. The Department also plans to spend the next three months working with each city to develop their proposals and transform roadmaps into renderings.

But as we enter the second phase of this Challenge, our Department is focusing the competition on how technology and innovation can be used to further connect people to opportunity.

We don’t often think about it, but transportation plays a crucial rule in connecting all Americans to employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services. And the unfortunate reality is that many folks lack access to the reliable, safe, and affordable transportation they need to reach these opportunities.

At the same time, Americans spend more on transportation than they do on food, healthcare, and clothing. Low-income Americans spend nearly a quarter of their annual income on transportation while high-income American spend about one-tenth on transportation.

To overcome these challenges, cities are going to have to find ways to foster the emergence of technologies that have the potential to transform transportation and improve access for disconnected communities.

Now, we know that many private sector companies are developing technology that can help cities create these connections. And today, I’m thrilled to announce that we are teaming up with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and the 7 Smart City finalists to design Flow, the first platform that can shape transportation outcomes using analytics and citizen engagement.

Flow offers unprecedented city-wide transportation analytics to help cities understand congestion and identify areas underserved by transit, using aggregated, anonymized data from billions of miles of trips, including proprietary data from Google Maps. It also helps cities shape transportation outcomes - using a network of consumer mobility apps to engage citizens anywhere.

In addition to building a mobility platform, Sidewalk Labs will install over 100 kiosks in four neighborhoods (approximately 25 blocks) of the winning city.  These kiosks will provide free Wi-Fi and access points for disadvantaged citizens that cannot afford to get mobility information by other means.

Empowering disadvantaged communities to take advantage of technology and innovation is a key component of the Smart City Challenge. By embracing smart technologies and concepts that eliminate the digital divide, strengthen connections to jobs and remove physical barriers to access, we can strengthen communities throughout the country.

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