Ford Announces Pittsburgh Winners and Donates Transit Vans for Disaster Relief

Ford Motor Company Fund is helping communities cope with increasingly destructive natural disasters by awarding grants for four specially equipped Ford Transit vans to nonprofit winners of the Ford Disaster Relief Mobility Challenge.Ford also named the winning City of Pittsburgh pilot proposals,

After working collaboratively with the residents in Pittsburgh to identify transportation challenges and propose new ways to improve mobility in their communities, the City of Pittsburgh announces the winning pilot proposals for the Ford City of Tomorrow Challenge™.

Two of the winners, iomob and Safe Shift, will each be rewarded with $50,000 in prize money to test the implementation of their proposal in the real world. The third winner, Intersection, has requested no prize money from the City of Tomorrow Challenge, as its proposed LinkPGH program is supported through its own advertising revenue.

The first of the three winners is iomob, a user-friendly, open and inclusive form of “mobility as a service” aimed at addressing “inefficiencies” in a multi-modal but “fragmented mobility landscape.” Iomob allows end-users to discover, combine, book, and pay for the mobility services that best cover their needs at a given point of time. Iomob will be implemented as an open-source, decentralized platform that leverages blockchain to allow all mobility providers to easily join the platform. By connecting all the mobility operators in an area, iomob aims to enable users to find better combinations of services for any given trip.

Safe Shift, meanwhile, is a team that came together as part of the Mobiliti Conference in Pittsburgh in early October. The team consists of representatives from local transportation and advocacy groups, students, and an urban mobility data and analytics company called Moovit. Safe Shift is focused on getting night shift workers to and from work safely and efficiently. By talking to local employers, the Safe Shift team identified the needs of shift workers who travel while tired and in the dark, and they plan to aid these shift workers by providing safe and reliable transit during off peak and unpredictable hours.

Finally, Intersection has been chosen as the third winner. Intersection is a company that aims to address the connectivity gap many Pittsburgh residents face, whether it’s connectivity to the internet, local transit information, or city services. To address these needs, Intersection proposes to deploy digital kiosks, dubbed LinkPGH, which provide free high-speed public WiFi, phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., device charging, wayfinding, community messaging, and other amenities around the city.

“The people of Pittsburgh were integral to this Challenge,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. “They defined the need. Testing this in the real world, they will also help us evaluate this as a solution. We appreciate the partnership with Ford in not only thinking deeply about the challenges we face, but helping us to act quickly to find the ideas and entrepreneurs that can help address them.”

Launched in June, the City of Tomorrow Challenge™ is a crowdsourcing platform created to help prepare cities for the future by identifying new mobility designs and innovations that could improve the way people get around. The Challenge platform brought together officials, residents and local businesses in Pittsburgh, as well as key program sponsors AT&T, Dell Technologies, Microsoft and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, encouraging people to share their mobility experiences.

“These proposals all focus on some of the issues that Pittsburgh residents shared with us during the community engagement phases of the Challenge,” said John Kwant, vice president, Ford City Solutions. “Working closely and collaborating with the people who will use solutions like these are one way in which we hope we can start to make a positive impact on people’s mobility.”

After hearing numerous stories from local Pittsburgh residents, the City of Tomorrow Challenge received more than 125 unique proposals for mobility solution pilots. The Challenge’s Steering Committee, comprised of industry experts, partner representatives, and locals, selected 13 semi-finalists. Those semi-finalists had the opportunity to work with a mentor and local accelerator to further refine their proposals before a winner was selected.


The challenge asks nonprofit organizations how they would customize a Ford Transit to fit a particular disaster response need in their community. The 2018 winners listed below cover critical disaster-prone areas. They were selected based on their unique utilization of the Transit for disaster relief work, ability to quickly deploy the vehicle across the country, and intended use for the van when not responding to a natural disaster.

  • Empact Northwest, Kingston, Washington – Transit will be outfitted with communications equipment, emergency lighting, swift water, flood and other rescue gear; and will allow Empact to transport a rescue boat as needed. When not on disaster duty, the van will be used for first responder training and community education.
  • Mercy Chefs, Portsmouth, Virginia – Transit will be used with the organization’s mobile kitchens as a food delivery and distribution van. The vehicle will double the organization’s current capacity and allow them to serve up to 20,000 people a day. With the ability to access hard-to-reach areas, the van will deliver meals from community kitchens when not deployed for disaster relief.
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana – By customizing their Transit van with a kitchen, service window and awning, the nonprofit will be able to reheat and serve meals. It will also be equipped with communications tools, such as two-way radios, antenna and a satellite phone w/ outside speaker. When not deployed for a disaster, the vehicle will address food insecurity among children and senior citizens.
  • The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), Kansas City, Missouri – Vehicle will support The Salvation Army disaster response operations with a variety of communications equipment. When not deployed for disaster relief, the Transit will provide communications support for other nonprofits.

“This challenge combines Ford’s strength as a mobility company with the courage and know-how of experienced disaster response professionals, whose modifications will enhance their ability to get critical supplies to where they’re needed most,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Natural disasters show nature at its worst, but thankfully, they bring out the best in our first responders, medical personnel, and even our neighbors who pitch in to help when danger is all around them.”

Ford will work with the selected organizations over the next few months to ensure the vehicles are ready to respond when natural disasters strike in 2019 and beyond. There are now seven challenge-winning Ford vehicles developed with input from first responders and nonprofit partners. The original three challenge winners were deployed in 2017 to assist disaster relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes and flooding across the southern United States.

Ford has a long history of responding to natural disasters with vehicles, volunteers and financial assistance. Over the past five years, Ford has donated more than 50 emergency response vehicles. Together with our dealers and employees, Ford and Ford Fund have mobilized thousands of volunteers and contributed more than $5 million to aid response and recovery in the U.S. and abroad.