Seven Cities Vie to Become U.S. DOT’s First “Smart City Challenge” Winner

Categories: Engineering Infrastructure

Autodesk sponsors live, final pitch event; register today to watch the seven “Smart City Challenge” finalists compete for a $50 million fund and technology to help make their vision of the future a reality


Smart city challenge

Autodesk is proud to sponsor tomorrow’s June 9 final pitch event.  Register now to livestream the excitement and watch each of the seven cities’ pitches for the Smart City Challenge at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET – To register visit hereand click “Watch the Final Pitch Live”.


If someone asks, “What does a Smart City look like?”, what comes to mind? For baby boomers and American pop culture history buffs, the iconic cartoon series “The Jetsons” – created in 1962 and set in 2062 – comes immediately to mind with its “way out” vision of the future. In The Jetsons, flying cars folded into briefcases and cities floated above ground. It was a fun romp into fantasy land.

But talk to an urban planner or city manager in the USA and around the globe today, and you’ll hear about some amazing, real-world technologies having a profound impact – such as embedding sensors throughout a city’s infrastructure to monitor everything from traffic to water resources, environmental performance, you name it [a.k.a. the “Internet of Things”], or the advent of self-driving vehicles with a connection to other vehicles and to infrastructure.

There are a host of challenges pressing on the minds of urban planners, city officials, civil engineers and architects who all recognize the urgent need to transform our cities to improve transportation, enhance sustainability, meet citizens’ rising expectations, and attract investment, new businesses, and talent. And to help move the needle in a concrete and positive way on the transportation front, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx launched the “Smart City Challenge” in December of last year to help spur the exploration and application of advanced technologies to address the mobility crisis facing most of America’s cities. And Autodesk stepped in to support the finalist cities with technologies to help realize their vision.

The Smart City Challenge garnered applications from 78 mid-sized cities from across the USA aspiring to become the definition of a “smart city,” integrating innovation and technology into their transportation services. What’s in it for the cities taking up the challenge?  A $50 million fund plus additional technological support from Autodesk, Mobileye, Amazon Web Services, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, and NXP Semiconductors to help make their vision a reality! The program challenged leaders in the public and private sectors to imagine a fully integrated, first-of-its-kind transportation network that uses data, technology, and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future.

For the U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge, Autodesk offered to help finalists create, communicate and demonstrate changes required to make their city a “smart city” with access and support for two Autodesk products, InfraWorks 360 and 3ds Max. These products will enable city leaders and planners to build their vision in a stunning 3D environment to show how their plan will look and function within the context of a real-world setting. Our goal throughout the process was to level the visualization playing field to ensure that each finalist had the opportunity to tell their full story of the future.  As the global leader in 3D design and engineering software, we could not refuse the opportunity to participate.

More specifically, InfraWorks 360 is a tool that will help empower the designers to quickly build the context of the city and then infuse their smart city design ideas into that context. 3ds Max takes the 3D world of InfraWorks 360 to the next level with visual tools and effects that make it difficult to distinguish the model from the real world. Ultimately, the cities may use these tools to allow the reviewers to experience their proposed smart city as though they are actually walking, driving, or riding through them.

LA Map 9Shown here is a proof-of-concept InfraWorks 360 3D model of Los Angeles.

Seven Finalist Cities to Compete Tomorrow

Now, just six months later, we have the seven finalist cities:  Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland [Oregon] and San Francisco.

And the big news update we have for you today is all about tomorrow’s big event.

Tomorrow, June 9, the seven finalist cities will present their Smart City vision to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the world!  Sponsored by Autodesk, you can livestream the excitement this Thursday starting at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET – visit the registration page here and click “Watch the Final Pitch Live”.

What’s next after tomorrow’s live event? Later this summer, the winning city will become the country’s first city to fully integrate advanced innovations, which may include a host of technologies from security cameras on buses to advanced city-wide self-driving cars.  While there is officially only a single winner, the collaboration and free-flow of ideas is unprecedented. Every city around the world now has access to the seven finalist cities proposals, fostering a future that brings big ideas forward to the masses.

At Autodesk we’re wishing all of the seven finalists the best of luck in tomorrow’s final pitch event.  And, we again applaud Transportation Secretary Foxx for his vision, helping to bridge the public and private sectors in one of the most unique ways for the common good.

While there is officially only one winner of the grant money, healthy competitions like this help cities think outside the box and imagine “what is next?” It may not be flying cars, floating cities, or moving conveyors instead of walking à la The Jetsons, but it is a new wave of innovative thinking to solve city-wide problems. And, that’s the beauty of the Smart City concept – government agencies, cities, and companies coming together to collaborate about what the future should look like to benefit citizens.

Click on the image below to see a video highlighting Autodesk’s global viewpoint on the future of our world’s urban infrastructure:

Cities video