Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google (GOOGL) parent company Alphabet, has partnered with Transportation for America to show U.S. cities how big data and other tech can be used to reduce traffic congestion and commute times, therefore helping people get from Point A to Point B more affordably.
In other words, they want to teach cities how to use technology and smart policies in order to solve some of the biggest problems facing urban centers.
The collaboration will tap into the superpowers of each entity. Sidewalk Labs has digital technology expertise, while the Transportation of America has experience working with state and local governments to develop transportation and land use policy. Transportation for America, or T4A, is an alliance of elected, business, and civic leaders from across the United States.
T4A will also study current transportation policy and technology in American cities and use it to help local leaders, who often have limited budgets, pick the best solutions to solve problems like aging infrastructure and a lack of public transit.
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Earlier this year, Sidewalk Labs started working with the U.S. Department of Transportation and a handful of cities to develop a platform to improve traffic congestion, find smarter ways to move people around urban centers, and prepare for self-driving cars.
A data platform called Flow has been designed to help city officials identify problems, like gaps in public transit or bottlenecks in traffic, so they can ultimately find the fastest, safest, and most affordable methods to transport the greatest number of people.
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The effort is part of the Smart City Challenge, a government-sponsored competition that will award $50 million to one U.S. city with the most innovative, tech-centric plan to ease traffic congestion and make it easier and cheaper for people to get from point A to point B. The seven finalist cities are Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, and San Francisco.
“Too often there’s a disconnect between tech interventions and transportation outcomes. We’ve seen cities embrace a more holistic approach in our collaboration with the U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge, but it’s important to broaden that discussion to all the other cities looking for better tools to improve mobility,” Anand Babu, COO of Sidewalk Labs, said in a statement.
The winner of the Smart City Challenge will be announced this month and will receive the Flow data platform at no cost.