In December, the Department of Transportation challenged cities to come up with innovative plans to use technology, tacking on a $50 million prize to whichever city's plan was the best. This weekend at SXSW, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the 7 cities - 2 more than planned - that will get $100,000 to flesh out their ideas before announcing a winner in May.

The finalists included San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; Denver; Austin, Texas; Pittsburgh; Kansas City, Mo.; and Columbus, Ohio. Foxx says he expected maybe 25 entries, so the 78 entries that came in over the last few months has been astonishing.

The winner will receive $40 million from the Department of Transportation, $10 million from Vulcan Philanthropy (a start-up founded by Microsoft's Paul Allen), driver safety assistance technology for buses from Mobileye and wireless technology that lets cars exchange data from NXP Semiconductors and Cohda Wireless.

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