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Ford City of the Future Challenge

December 10, 2018

Ford City of the Future Challenge

Every city (and Sacramento is no exception) has its fair share of congestion, gridlock, and aging infrastructure. It’s been that way all through history. When dirt streets became too rutted to use, they were paved. When traffic got too big to manage without controls, streetlights were invented and installed. When populations without automobiles grew, bus systems were initiated. So what comes next now that we are reaching capacity on our existing systems?

Ford wants to know.

Ford wants to know because they want to be ready to provide the products and services that will be the “next big thing” in mobility. They are already investing significant resources in autonomous technology, but they want an idea of what else is coming down the road. To find out, they created and funded the Ford City of the Future ChallengeTM: “a crowdsourcing platform created to help prepare cities for the future, bringing groups of people together to design and pilot new solutions to help improve mobility in cities.” Pittsburgh was one of the first cities to collaborate with Ford and recently announced the winners of their challenge.

How Pittsburgh Wants to Move in the Future

Pittsburgh held the contest to get proposals on new ways to improve mobility in the city. Recently, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership announced three winners. Two of the three will receive a $50,000 grant from Ford to further their proposals. The third winner requested no prize money as its proposal is supported through its own advertising revenue.

So, what is Pittsburgh thinking?

Iomob: Iomob wants to address “inefficiencies” in a multi-modal but “fragmented mobility landscape.” In layman’s terms, they want to create an opensource platform that includes every method of transportation in the city. Taxis, buses, car rentals, car sharing, trains, car services, horse drawn carriages, borrow-a-bike programs, and any other element of the “multi-modal” mobility infrastructure will be encouraged to participate in the platform.

Citizens can enter their itinerary, browse the sources, book the service, and pay for it, all in one place. The idea is to create the most efficient method for the consumer to get from point A to point B within the city while optimizing the available mobility resources.

Safe Shift: A team comprised of representatives from local transportation, advocacy groups, students, and an urban mobility data and analytics company called Moovit submitted a proposal with the objective to improve the transportation safety of shift workers. All of us are somewhat beat after a day on the job. But shift workers are not only tired; they also travel in the dark. After surveying local employers, the team developed a list of needs that shift workers have to ensure safe travel. The next step in the project is to find safe, reliable transportation during off-peak or unpredictable hours.

Intersection: This project takes on a different issue: connectivity. In Pittsburgh there are many residents who face a connectivity gap, including connectivity to the internet, local transit information, and contact with city services. The solution? Intersection wants to put public kiosks throughout the city that offers free wi-fi, wayfinding, community messaging, and other services. Think of them as a kind of free digital phone booth.

The challenge is a small but important start to addressing real transit problems. Ford’s participation allows for the funding and platform to make it happen and is another example of how Ford places importance on community mobility.

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