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$50M grant could bring self-driving cars to KC

Posted: 5:15 PM, Mar 21, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-21 22:15:44Z
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge is underway. It's a competition pitting cities across the country against each other in pursuit of $50 million. In all, 78 cities submitted proposals. Now it's down to just seven, and Kansas City is one of them. 

Only seven cities remain in the finals.

 
What is a smart city?
 
"A smart city really means that you have censors that are picking up data in the city. You have computing power that can analyze data coming in and then you make decisions based on what's happening in your city on the data you are collecting. It's really thinking about smart cities from a transportation context -- autonomous vehicles [self-driving cars], smart pavement, how do you look at what transportation will look like in the future." - Aaron Deacon, KC digital drive
 
"It's going to bring you information at your fingertips wherever you are. Eventually we will have Wi-Fi coverage all the way from the airport down to Union Station and that will give us the ability to interact with you, to understand what you need as a citizen, and to give you the services that you need. It's also going to give us data to understand where we need to act before there's a crisis." - Bob Bennett, KCMO Chief Innovation Officer
 
Can you give me a real life example of how being a smart city would make KC a better place to live?
 
"If we have 800,000 people coming down to a party at Union Station [for the World Series Parade], maybe I can be a little bit more proactive about bringing more resources to bear; bringing more buses to bear, bringing the street lights into a more efficient system to get people in and out more effectively." - Bennett
 
What kind of products coincide with smart cities?
 
"The idea of autonomous vehicles. Smart pavement means you are putting sensors in the road so it can detect traffic patterns and give feedback about how it is carrying traffic over time. It also helps provide a track for smart and autonomous vehicles. It's really about attracting research dollars into the area; private investment dollars and federal dollars to explore with the city of the future. That's a really good thing for KC." - Deacon
 
Being a smart city sounds cool, but how does it impact the average person?
 
"The more data we have and the more we can make decisions about things like how to deploy snow plows or how to arrange street lights or where to deploy city resources based on what is actually happening on the ground, we can deliver those services more efficiently and improve quality." - Deacon
 
How would this $50 million grant help KC?
 
"A big push for the particular grant that Kansas City Missouri put in is to replicate what has happened downtown along the streetcar line - the kiosks, the free Wi-Fi - and to do that along the Prospect MAX bus line. It's looking at bringing some of what is happened in the commercial corridor downtown and bring it to the eastside of Troost and having a more equitable distribution of this infrastructure throughout the city." - Deacon
 
"Once we win this grant what we are going to do is extend that capability to the eastern one third of the city with the Prospect MAX bus line. That is going to change lives over there. It is going to make the digital economy available to everyone who lives there." - Bennett
 
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Terra Hall can be reached at terra.hall@kshb.com .

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