Ford has chosen Grand Rapids, Michigan to be their next “City of Tomorrow”.
Although the name sounds like they plan on giving Grand Rapids a bunch of futuristic technologies, like solar-powered roads and hovering cars, the reality is a little more basic.
Ford’s “City of Tomorrow” project aims to harness crowdsourcing to fix mobility problems in certain cities. They’ve already announced projects in Pittsburgh and Miami-Dade County down in Florida earlier this month, and now Grand Rapids gets to join in such august company to get some assistance on their mobility woes.
Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan but suffers from some of the worst gridlock in the state. More people are driving cars and fewer people are taking public transit. To get people from point A to point B is becoming increasingly difficult, so Grand Rapids reached out for help.
Ford reached back, along with a bunch of other partner companies that include AT&T, Dell, Microsoft, PlanetM, and The Right Place. The idea here is to institute a crowdsourcing platform that will take ideas from the local population and turn them into pilot projects that might just make getting around the city a whole lot easier.
After all, who would know better how to fix a city’s transportation woes than their own residents?
Here’s how it works. First, residents with ideas sign up at the City of Tomorrow website and attend some online community work sessions. Then, on July 23rd, the floodgates open for ideas. Whatever the idea, big or small, Ford will accept it.
They may not necessarily select your idea, but they’ll accept it.
After the weekends, Ford and their tech-y partners will take all their ideas and use some sort of analysis to figure out the best ones. We’re not too clear on how this process will work, or if it’ll all turn into a publicity stunt where the city gets a new bike lane and everybody cheers.
The finalists are selected in September which is when Ford will accept their final proposals. Presumably, these will be a little more polished and not just be napkin-sized suggestions.
After that, Ford picks the winners. They didn’t say how many winners there will be, either, so it likely depends on the number of good ideas they get. But the big winners get $100,000 grants to actually take their idea and turn it into a pilot project. Expect a bunch of architecture and urban planning students to be the big winners, and maybe a grandma or two.
And who knows? Maybe one of those kids will have a flying car idea that’s so great it’ll change the world.