$50M contest aims to jump-start urban transit

An artist’s conception visualizes how “connected vehicles” could communicate. (Credit: USDOT)
An artist’s conception visualizes how “connected vehicles” could communicate. (Credit: USDOT)

The U.S. Department of Transportation and billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen’sVulcan Inc. are offering $50 million to midsize cities, including Seattle, in a “Smart City” competition to promote next-generation transportation systems.

“Our national vision for transportation is still very much constrained by 20th-century thinking about technology,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters today during a teleconference to announce the contest. “We are imagining connected and autonomous vehicles that practically eliminate crashes. And we are imagining this technology interacting with wired infrastructure to eliminate traffic jams as well.”

Foxx said the federal government would be unveiling new guidelines for autonomous vehicles sometime in the next few weeks, and requirements for vehicle-to-vehicle communications in the next year. But he also said DOT wants cities to come up with their own visions for transportation systems that are safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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