MTA $1M Genius Transit Challenge winners suggest faster trains and robot workers to fix subway hell

Posted On Mon, March 12, 2018 By

Posted On Mon, March 12, 2018 By In Design, Technology, Transportation

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has announced the winners of the agency’s MTA Genius Transit Challenge; eight winners will split a $1 million prize for their ideas and concepts on how to upgrade the city’s creaky and complaint-riddled subway system. The contest is part of an effort to bring the subway’s capacity and reliability up to speed. The challenge is a joint venture between the MTA and Partnership for New York City. The challenge received over 400 submissions from around the world.

The Genius Transit Challenge hoped to discover innovative ideas for quickly modernizing the subway’s signal systems, procure new state-of-the-art cars and bring connectivity to underground tunnels. The eight winners were selected based on their ideas’ ability to deliver maximum positive impact quickly. In some categories, judges bestowed multiple awards in some categories because more than one proposal showed significant promise–or because two proposals were very similar.

The challenge was divided into three categories: The signal category sought ways to accelerate deployment of modern train signaling technologies, increase the number of trains at peak periods and encourage faster and more reliable service.

The second challenge sought strategies for deploying modern subway cars more efficiently or for refurbishing existing cars in order to increase the system’s capacity and reliability, prevent car breakdowns and reduce delays.

The third challenge asked entrants for ways to identify communications systems to better support the rapid installation and deployment of modern train communications and control technologies and to increase the system’s capacity and overall throughput.


Winning ideas, L-R: Using Ultra-wideband (UWB) to revolutionize signal deployment; developing the car of the future; robotic installation system; Image: MTA Genius Transit Challenge.

Winners in the first category included ways to use ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless technology and a proposal that suggested using onboard sensors and cameras for train positioning. The subway car-focused challenge winners suggested using longer trains and Big Data, and a method for developing the car of the future. The third challenge, communications, (won by Bechtel Innovation, an arm of the largest construction and civil engineering company in the United States) explained how a Robotic Installation System (“The Big B”) can rapidly install communications and control systems infrastructure in subway tunnels.

Next, the winning ideas will be thoroughly vetted and further developed as quickly as possible, subject to any required MTA Board approval. Two of the winners have said they plan to immediately reinvest their cash awards and contribute seed money to see their ideas advance in conjunction with the MTA. You can find out more about the winners here.

Images courtesy of MTA Genius Transit Challenge.

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