Ford Initiative Will Crowdsource Mobility Solutions in Detroit

It’s been a year since Ford announced it will refurbish a massive abandoned train station in Detroit and transform it into the anchor of its mobility and autonomous vehicle operations, which will eventually house hundreds of employees.

This week, the automaker announced a new program called City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge to solicit ideas for improving mobility options in the Corktown neighborhood surrounding the station. Ford also opened a new information center on Michigan Avenue to detail its mobility work and Corktown construction projects.

The information center contains display cases with a 3D model of the train station and interesting objects that have so far been unearthed during construction, such as a pineapple-shaped finial and an elevator call button panel. Visitors to the information center, located in the lobby of a building Ford calls the Factory on the corner of Michigan and Rosa Parks, can also play around with an interactive transportation modeling table to see road safety data and simulations of what neighborhood traffic will look like in 2023, after the train station project is completed. As of next week, the center will be open to the public from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and noon-4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Meanwhile, the City:One challenge—billed as a “co-creation and crowdsourcing program” by Ford, the city of Detroit, and PlanetM, a state economic development initiative to advance Michigan’s mobility sector—fulfills Ford’s community benefit agreement obligations. The eight-month challenge allows residents, community groups, and businesses to identify mobility challenges in the areas surrounding the train station and propose solutions. Participants will examine ways to overcome transportation barriers and make biking and walking more appealing, as well as how to bring goods and services to Detroiters who may not have easy access to transportation.

Ideas chosen for pilot tests will get up to $250,000 in funding, with an additional $78,000 in stipends available to 12 finalists as they develop full pilot proposals, Ford said in a press release. Ford, PlanetM, AT&T, Dell Technologies, and Microsoft will provide the funding. The City:One challenge will also inform broader transportation planning efforts for the city and state.

Those who want to participate in the challenge should head to the program’s website to share their mobility experiences and sign up for future community brainstorming sessions. (You don’t have to live in Detroit to participate, Ford said.) The first community workshop will be at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center on June 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Participants can begin submitting ideas for new mobility projects the week of Aug. 28. In October, a committee of city and industry officials will select finalists to receive in-kind support and cash stipends to refine their ideas into final pilot proposals.

Ford said it has also launched similar challenges in Indianapolis and Mexico City, with more locations to come in the future. The automaker and the city of Austin, TX, are holding a press conference on Monday in the Texas state capital to make a City:One Challenge announcement. A spokesperson declined to provide further detail about the announcement until the press conference.

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