Addressing Transportation Challenges with the Future: A “Smart City” Vision

The Challenge

Cities deliver many benefits – greater employment opportunities, greater access to healthcare and education, and greater access to entertainment, culture and the arts. As a result, people are moving to cities at an unprecedented rate. This growing rate of urbanization will continue to put significant strain on city infrastructure and transportation networks. Americans spend over 40 hours stuck in traffic each year, and transportation is the second-biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In underserved communities, lack of adequate transportation affects access to job opportunity. If cities are going to overcome these challenges, they must find ways to foster the emergence of technologies – including the internet of things, connected vehicles, and automated vehicles – that have the potential to transform transportation.

The Vision

The USDOT wanted to encourage cities to put forward their best and most creative ideas to address the transportation challenges they face. The vision was to conduct a national competition for a federally-funded smart city demonstration, which would demonstrate and evaluate an integrated approach to improving transportation performance in a city.

The Noblis Qualifier

Having supported the federal Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program since its inception in 1991, Noblis was poised to support the USDOT in setting up a national competition for a federally-funded smart city demonstration. To support the Smart Cities initiative, Noblis leveraged its deep-rooted technical expertise in ITS, connected vehicles, automated vehicles, data analytics, and other emerging smart city technologies. We combined technical expertise with program planning, procurement support, systems engineering, and evaluation capabilities to assist the USDOT in setting the strategic vision for its Smart City program and developing two solicitation packages for the Smart City Challenge

The Solution

Over an eight-month period – from November 2015 to June 2016 – Noblis assisted the USDOT in preparing two solicitations to carry out the Smart City Challenge. The first solicitation defined the USDOT’s vision for a smart city demonstration and asked cities to articulate their vision to introduce new technologies onto city streets, requiring them to boldly envision new solutions that would change the face of transportation. The Smart City Challenge generated a significant amount of excitement and interest amongst cities and the transportation community, and in total, seventy-eight cities applied. Noblis played a key role in preparing materials to brief USDOT leadership and decision makers, including the Secretary of Transportation, on the proposals.

In March 2016, seven finalist cities – Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, and San Francisco – were invited to apply for funding to support implementation of their proposed demonstration. With Noblis’ support, the USDOT issued a second solicitation to request detailed applications from Smart City Challenge Finalists on their proposed plans to conduct a federally funded Smart City Demonstration in their jurisdiction. As with the first phase of the challenge, Noblis developed and summarized information to assist the USDOT and the Secretary of Transportation in selecting a winner. Noblis conducted an analysis of the seventy-eight applicants and seven finalist’s proposals identifying their challenges, strategies, and expected outcomes. The analysis guided the development of the “Smart City Challenge: Lessons for Building Cities of the Future” report.

In June 2016, the USDOT announced that Columbus, OH was selected as the winner of the Smart City Challenge. While there was only one winner, the competition allowed seventy-seven other cities to plan for a smarter future. With Noblis’ support, the Smart City Challenge ignited a conversation across America and encouraged other cities to advance their smart city initiatives.

The Future

Noblis is providing technical services support to the USDOT for Columbus’ Smart City Demonstration. Our support helps ensure that the city of Columbus follows best practices in systems engineering to deliver a holistic, integrated demonstration that includes connected vehicles, automated vehicles, an integrated data exchange, and other emerging mobility solutions. Our experiences supporting the USDOT with their Smart City efforts can be applied to other federal clients interested in standing up and executing large, complex deployment programs.