Austin aims to improve traffic as finalist for Smart City Challenge

Mayors from Columbus, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, and Austin's very own Steve Adler were all present for the announcement.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city is making national headlines. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has named Austin as one of seven finalists in the Smart City Challenge. He announced the finalists Saturday afternoon at the C3 Mobility Showcase during SXSW.

“We really need to find the new technologies that are going to enable us to use our existing infrastructure smarter, in more innovative ways,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Mayor Adler says there’s not enough room to keep expanding roads. The city has to get creative, like wirelessly connecting cars to alert each other when there’s a crash. The hope is to prevent more accidents and improve traffic flow.

“For a city our size, with the number of people, it’s terrible, everybody knows that.”

Austin driver Mark Yznaga knows how bad the traffic gets.

“People are frustrated, they start speeding and they hit other people, and I think it’s a travesty that people are dying at the rates they are on the streets,” said Mark.

It’s up to Austin to figure out exactly how to use technology to help people on the road.

“It’s having street lights talking to cars as they approach, it’s having emergency vehicles be able to talk to drivers so the car that you’re in knows an emergency vehicle is coming before you even see an emergency vehicle,” said Mayor Adler.

U.S. DOT will give the award to one city to help define what it means to be a “Smart City,” including using innovative technologies like self-driving cars and smart sensors into their transportation network.

The finalists announced for the challenge include Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA.

The challenge was issued initially in December 2015 with TxDOT partnering with Vulcan Inc., who has pledged $10 million to the winning city in addition to U.S. DOT’s award of $40 million.

For the next phase of the challenge all of the cities will receive a $100,000 grant to develop their proposals.

The winner will be announced in June.

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