The City of Columbus, Ohio, was selected as the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, earning up to $50 million from the DOT and a private company for the project. The project challenged cities to modernize their transportation system, and Columbus’ proposal includes the addition of 200 electric vehicles to the fleet, said Kelly Reagan, fleet administrator.
The city must deploy the 200 EVs with charging infrastructure within three years, according to the grant requirements. The city's current EV fleet consists of six vehicles.
“This will be a huge project for the division of fleet,” Reagan said. “We’ll learn from our friends in [California] on how to build electric vehicle infrastructure and put EVs into service, to shorten the learning curve.”
To determine where EVs will best fit, fleet staff members are talking to customers and pulling data from its telematics system. “With GPS data, we can tell how long a vehicle is on, how many miles it’s diving every day, to make sure it fits. But we won’t use the data alone; we’ll work specifically with the customers,” said John King, fleet operations manager.
The city proposed deploying three electric self-driving shuttles to link a new bus rapid transit center to a retail district, create smart lighting to increase safety for pedestrians and traffic signals that communicate with vehicles, and develop an app for events with real-time traffic and parking updates, among numerous other plans.
The city has already raised $90 million from other private partners to carry out the plan.
The Smart City competition challenged mid-size cities to fully integrate innovative technologies — self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors — into their transportation network. The city beat out six other finalists from a total of 78 applicants.
The DOT will collaborate with government and private sector partners to help the remaining finalist cities — Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, and San Francisco — move forward with their proposals.