While Apple & FBI Are Fighting, US DOT & Google’s Sidewalk Labs Are Partnering

U.S. DOT and Sidewalk Labs Partner in the Smart City Challenge; Sidewalk Labs to Create Flow, a Transportation Platform Designed With Cities to Get People Moving

“Flow helps cities understand their transportation systems, engage citizens, and improve transit equity”

Winner of Smart City Challenge will receive Flow at no cost

March 17, 2016 – Sidewalk Labs announced today that it is building a new platform called Flow in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Smart City Challenge participants. As demonstrated by the Challenge, digital infrastructure is becoming the foundation of our transportation system. Sidewalk’s Flow platform will help cities understand where people want to go and implement new policies to get them there more efficiently, equitably and safely. The platform will be developed with input from the 7 Smart City Finalists, with Sidewalk Labs deploying Flow first in partnership with the winning city at no cost.

Cities can use Flow analytics to identify sources of congestion and areas underserved by transit – drawing upon city-wide transportation patterns from aggregated, anonymized data containing billions of miles of trips from Google’s Urban Mobility program, and other sources.  Flow will help cities analyze traffic patterns on specific roads, including types of trips and neighborhoods contributing to traffic, in order to understand how new transit options, ridesharing, or other mobility services can reduce congestion.

Flow also helps cities take action by surfacing more efficient and equitable mobility options for citizens within popular mobile apps or on-street kiosks.  Deployed in partnership with the winning city starting in underserved neighborhoods, on-street kiosks will offer free Wi-Fi and real-time transit information, helping citizens without a smartphone or data plan use new dynamic mobility services.  The kiosks also perform anonymized sensing, helping route drivers directly to available parking, and allowing cities to adjust transit routes based on real-time rider demand, or change traffic patterns to respond to congestion.  The same sensor network could also be used to test new technologies like autonomous vehicles.

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Every city using Flow will be able to share learning, helping accelerate testing and deployment of new policies and technologies while ensuring safety.


“Empowering disadvantaged communities to take advantage of technology and innovation is a key component of the Smart City Challenge,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “By embracing smart technologies and concepts that eliminate the digital divide, strengthen connections to jobs and remove physical barriers to access, we can strengthen communities throughout the country.   Our partnership with Sidewalk Labs will help cities engage citizens, improve access to mobility and help cities manage evolving transportation challenges.”


“Cities are wrestling with growing congestion and aging infrastructure, while Americans are traveling further and spending more on their commutes.   Unequal transportation has become a barrier to social mobility, but the answer can’t be to build more roads when we are struggling to maintain the ones we have,” said Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff.  “That’s why we’re partnering with the 7 Smart Cities Challenge finalists to build Flow, a transportation coordination platform that has the potential to shorten commute times and provide reliable transport options for all citizens.  Getting this right will require cities and citizens to participate in designing the platform – which is why we’re excited to engage as part of the DOT Smart City Challenge.”



Sidewalk Labs is a newly-formed urban innovation company that is the result of a partnership between Alphabet and Daniel Doctoroff, the former Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York and the CEO of Bloomberg LP. Sidewalk’s mission is to use technology to solve big urban problems across transportation, housing, infrastructure, and data-driven management.

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Sources from Google Sidewalk Labs Press Release.


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