Pittsburgh is on a quest to become the country’s first “Smart City.”

The city got word over the weekend that Pittsburgh is among seven finalists advancing in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge to expand transportation performance by enhancing “safety, mobility, sustainability, economic vitality, and address climate change” according to the department [DOT].

Seventy-eight mid-sized cities with between 250,000 to 800,000 residents applied for the $40 million grant.

“Smart Cities is not just about promoting the latest transportation and energy related technology,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said in a press release Tuesday. “It’s about applying those efforts to improve the lives of everyday Pittsburghers…”

The proposal from Pittsburgh was built through a partnership between the City of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Port Authority, Carnegie Mellon University [CMU], the University of Pittsburgh and numerous community and nonprofit stakeholders, according to the Peduto’s press release.

Pittsburgh’s proposal highlights the establishment of “smart spines,” which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports will assemble travel information to provide new services to the city.

Pittsburgh’s bid calls for creating adaptive transportation systems using “smart spines” that gather transportation data using sensors in major transportation corridors. That information would be used to develop new transportation options for underserved neighborhoods, improve safety and provide better information for travelers.

Pittsburgh would act as a pilot for “smart spines,” situating the city as a “testbed for future transportation technologies,” according to the city press release.

A PublicSource article last month explored the advances Pittsburgh has already made in the transportation business, highlighting autonomous cars being developed and researched in the city through a partnership between Uber and CMU.

If self-driving cars were to become the norm, the city would likely need to upgrade and standardize traffic signals and redesign intersections to allow for streamlined performance by the cars.

Peduto, making mention of these technology advancements by CMU, said that even if Pittsburgh is not chosen in the challenge, the city will continue to move forward with these developments, according to the Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh was joined by Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Portland and San Francisco as the finalists.

The seven finalist cities have been awarded $100,000 to fine-tune their proposals, which are due in in April. The winner will be chosen in June. The winner will receive not only the $40 million in funding from the DOT, but also $10 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s investment company, Vulcan, and $1 million in credits from Amazon Web Services to be used in its cloud and professional Services.

“This is where the world is going,” Peduto said, according to the Post-Gazette. “The question is, will Pittsburgh be a leader?”

Reach PublicSource intern Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@publicsource.org.

This fact-based local reporting drives impact and creates change. Help power that impact.

James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.

It takes a lot of time, skill and resources to produce journalism like this. Our stories are always made available for free so that they can benefit the most people, regardless of ability to pay. But as an independent, nonprofit newsroom, we count on donations from our readers to support this crucial work. Can you make a contribution of any amount (or better yet, set up a recurring monthly gift) to help ensure we can continue to report on what matters and tell stories for a better Pittsburgh?