This article was published on March 17, 2016

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs announces Flow, a US DOT partnership to improve mass transit

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs announces Flow, a US DOT partnership to improve mass transit
Bryan Clark
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Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Today, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs announced a new platform called ‘Flow’ that’s designed to help cities better understand where people want to go and to help them get there more efficiently.

The platform is a partnership with the US Department of Transportation,  working with Smart City Challenge participants that would identify sources of congestion — and those underserved by existing transit — to “create transportation patterns from aggregated, anonymized data containing millions of trips from Google’s Urban Mobility program,” among others.

“Essentially the way this will work is we will build a platform to ingest different forms of data to help users understand [it] in real time,” says Sidewalk CEO Dan Doctoroff. “It can come from third party apps or city’s own data [about road closures/construction]. It will enable cities to create dashboards for transportation, parking.”

The program would install over 100 kiosks in 4 neighborhoods in the winning cities. These kiosks would double as mobility solutions for citizens by offering free Wi-Fi and real-time transit information — system similar to LinkNYC.

The data gathered by these kiosks would then be used in future applications, possibly aimed at consumers. For example, an app that allows you to check the availability of city parking in real time to help reduce the time needed to find a space.

The kiosks also perform anonymized sensing, which would help route drivers find available parking, or allow the city to adjust routes based on real-time rider demand and traffic patterns. “Our hope is this is a product that can be rolled out in cities around the world,” said Doctoroff.

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