Columbus, Ohio, will be using the Flow software suite developed by Sidewalk Labs, an offshoot of Google parent-company Alphabet, to support its Smart City project.
The Sidewalk Labs system uses monitors embedded in streets and stand-alone wireless connected kiosks to monitor traffic flow. The data it receives is merged with Google Maps and Google’s Waze app to predict the most efficient routes for drivers to follow. The software will be free as part of the overall U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City package.
On June 23, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Columbus has been selected as the winner of the DOT’s Smart City Challenge. Columbus will receive up to $40 million from the DOT and up to $10 million from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. to supplement the $90 million that the city has already raised from other private partners to carry out its plan. Columbus will work to reshape its transportation system to fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into their transportation network.
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“Flow is about using data and analytics to help cities work with their citizens to increase the efficiency of road, parking, and transit use, improving access to mobility for all,” says Anand Babu, COO of Sidewalk Labs. “Flow will allow cities to understand their transportation systems in real time, and could be used to improve and plan public transportation, guide drivers directly to parking, or point commuters to shared mobility options they can use when public transportation is not an option.”
The software could identify all available parking spaces in the city. It could even allow private companies to monetize empty lots and garages as a revenue source. Drivers would be guided to an available space and pay for it with a mobile app.