Self-driving cars are cool but there are less sexy and more urgent transportation problems that smart cities need solutions for today. Ford has decided to take on these less glamorous challenges like improving mobility for people in wheelchairs and making public transportation safer for women.

Ford Mobility City:One Challenge is offering between $100,000 and $250,000 for new ways to make it easier for people to get around. The idea is to research mobility issues with residents, entrepreneurs, and then fund pilot projects to make a near term impact in daily life.

Ford has selected four cities for the challenge. The competition has three phases: explore, propose and refine. The timeline is different in each city:

Each city has a set of mobility goals. For Indianapolis, Ford set these priorities based on conversations with more than 1,000 residents:

  1. Increase reliable access
  2. Expand affordable transportation choices
  3. Support residents with disabilities or other challenges
  4. Create comfortable journeys for families

In Mexico City, the goal is to make transportation safer for women, children, older adults and people with disabilities who live at the edge of the city.

The rules are a little different in Detroit. Teams can win up to $250,000 but solutions must be designed to serve a particular area of town. The project must have a direct benefit on residents, workers, or visitors of the Michigan Central Station Impact Area.

In Austin, the project is in the first phase: explore. Ford is conducting a survey to collect ideas and determine the biggest transportation problems.

Each idea will be evaluated against three criteria:

  1. Desirable: The application demonstrates how it can meet the needs of both the city and its intended user
  2. Feasible: The solution can be piloted with up to $100,000 and within six months, and it is operational within the current transportation system
  3. Viable: The solution has a clear customer and a pathway to a sustainable service model

The steering committee for each city’s challenge will include representatives from Ford, Microsoft, Dell, AT&T, and the respective city.

Winners of the Indianapolis funding will be announced in January 2020.

Aerial view of big highway interchange with traffic in Dubai, UAE, at day. Scenic cityscape. Colorful transportation, communications and driving background.
Dmitry Telegin, Getty Images/iStockphoto