Smart Cities

For nearly a decade, Vanderbilt University researchers have partnered with the city of Nashville to develop numerous use-inspired projects aimed at addressing complex socio-technical challenges facing the city and region. The Mayor’s Office has been central to this partnership and we look forward to exploring new ways to develop a bright, innovative future for Nashville and its residents.

Nashville Skyline
Smart Cities

Smart Cities

The “smart city” conversation has evolved. The dialogue now focuses on the intersections between technology-based problem solving, community engagement, social justice, and environmental responsibility. Today’s thriving city is an intelligent urban ecosystem, where technology enables new solutions for holistic, equitable, and sustainable change in our physical spaces, institutional spaces, and digital spaces.

At Vanderbilt, we have been working on this societally critical challenge through the CIVIC center. The CIVIC (City Innovation through the Vanderbilt initiative for Infrastructure Connectivity) center is a multidisciplinary group of academic researchers that works with communities and cities to develop solutions that emphasize social equity, technology and data science approaches. This collaboration is an extension of the earlier VISOR center established in 2016 as a partnership between the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County and Vanderbilt University. VISOR worked on several Global Cities team challenge projects addressing issues centered on public transit, public emergency systems, and transportation. By working together, the team of researchers, Metro leaders, and socio-technical experts aims to incubate solutions that lead to wider economic and technological impact in the region.

Examples of successful partnerships include the following:

  • Public Transportation Analysis

    Starting in 2021, Vanderbilt began an ongoing project with Metro Nashville to design tools optimizing WeGo service availability. Funding for this project comes from the Federal Transit Administration. In 2016 and 2017, Vanderbilt researchers collaborated with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to build a decision-support tool to aid public transportation scheduling optimization, delay prediction and event-impact analysis. The research team even built a smartphone application for users.

  • Emergency Response Optimization

    In 2022, Vanderbilt researchers, working in partnership with the Metro Nashville’s Department of Emergency Communication, Information Technology Services, and the Fire Department, won a competitive CIVIC grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an AI-based system to offload non-emergency incidents. Previously, the groups worked together to build an open-source platform for visualizing vehicle incidents that included an ability to hot-spot trouble areas and predict future incidents.

  • Multimodal Transport and Pedestrian Safety

    Working in partnership with NDOT, as well as academic partners Tennessee State University and the UT-Chattanooga, researchers are deploying state-of-the-art lidar motion sensors at intersections to improve safety for vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bikers. The work will run through 2025. Previously, Vanderbilt created the Gulch Smart Mobility Lab in collaboration with Metro ITS and Public Works. A network of smart cameras fed de-identified data into deep learning computers used to train algorithms used in pedestrian safety technology.

  • Education, Equity and Workforce Development

    With nearly $1 million of funding from the NIH and NSF, Vanderbilt researchers have designed an AI-powered driving simulator to teach driving skills to autistic individuals with the goals of improving employment and independent-living opportunities. The simulator has been deployed to various vocational rehabilitation centers and social service organizations.

    In K-12 education, the Vanderbilt Open-Ended Learning Environments group is working with Dr. Jennifer Berry, Director of STEAM for Metro Nashville Public Schools to deliver problem-based learning curricula that combines STEM instruction and computer science for middle school students. Teachers from Meigs Magnet school, Carter Lawrence Elementary, Glenview Elementary, and Tennessee Nature Academy have all used the material.


  • May 15-17

    5 PM Vanderbilt University

    2024 Annual Meeting hosted by Vanderbilt University Research and Innovation

    This year's conference theme is IT+ITS: Information Technology Meets Intelligent Transportation and will take place May 15-17 and include keynote speakers, technical presentations, roundtables, and plenty of opportunities for networking with multiple social events and breaks. Find more information below for registration, sponsorship opportunities, exhibitor opportunities, and hotel information. Please reach out to with any questions.

    Conference Details

    May 15 · 5pm - May 17 · 12pm CDT

    VU Student Life Center, 310 25th Avenue South Nashville, TN 37212

    Most of the conference, including all presentations and the exhibit hall, will take place at the Vanderbilt University Student Life Center located at 310 25th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212.


Education for All

Vanderbilt University engineering and education researchers are part of a new $20 million research institute funded by the National Science Foundation. This institute supports Vanderbilt's goal to create artificial intelligence tools to advance human learning and education.


Redesign regional transit system using artificial intelligence, community engagement

$3.9 million, NSF

Augmenting and advancing cognitive performance of control room operators for power grid resiliency

$323,000, NSF

Optimizing public transit with Artificial Intelligence

$55,000, NSF

Designing tech-driven decision-making and disaster response tools for Houston-area food banks

$50,0000, NSF, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

  • NSF
  • NIH
  • FTA

Latest News


Abhishek Dubey, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering:

Hiba Baroud, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering:

Meiyi Ma, Assistant Professor of Computer Science:

Jonathan Sprinkle, Professor of Computer Science, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering:

Dan Work, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor of Computer Science: