Saturday, February 4, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation has named the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor and the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator as one of 10 designated automated vehicle proving ground sites in the nation.

The designation encourages testing and information sharing around automated vehicle technologies in the region and is the logical next step in an effort to advance the safe deployment of more highly automated vehicle technology.

“This U.S. DOT designation reinforces the long history of advanced vehicle safety research at the University of Iowa and our strong public and private partnerships across the state,” says Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. “Iowa is poised to be leader in vehicle innovation.”

“This designation will further bolster opportunities for STEM education and energize the next generation of scientists and engineers in Iowa,” says Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

The application, submitted by the Iowa City Area Development Group on behalf of Iowa’s Creative Corridor in partnership with the UI and the Iowa DOT, focused on the diversity of automated vehicle testing environments Iowa has to offer. Unlike other proving grounds, the corridor features a variety in climate, road users, and roadway landscapes, including the nation’s largest and most expansive simulated virtual proving ground at the National Advanced Driving Simulator.

Leadership at the city and county level throughout Johnson and Linn counties, as well as from the state, have promoted innovative ideas and pushed boundaries, making the area attractive for on-road automated vehicle safety testing.

The designation also comes on the heels of a collaboration between the the Iowa DOT; HERE of North America, a data innovation and mapping company, the UI and Iowa State University to transform a section of I-380 that connects Iowa City and Cedar Rapids into a data-rich corridor that can help development of advanced vehicle technologies.

“This is a big win for our communities and the state as a whole,” says Dan McGehee, director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator and professor of engineering at the UI. “This designation is a great complement to our partnership with the Iowa DOT in developing data-rich environments useful for automated and connected vehicle technologies. Understanding how new generations of vehicles will be operated on Iowa roads will not only help attract new businesses to the state, but also help to maintain our status as a top public research university.”

Proving ground designees were selected from a competitive group of more than 60 applicants, which included academic institutions, state departments of transportation, cities, and private entities and partnerships. Each proving grounds designee has different facilities that can be used to gauge safety, manage different roadways and conditions, and handle various types of vehicles. The proving grounds will provide critical insights and serve as a foundation for building a community of practice around automated vehicle research.

“This is a good first step in establishing our region as a community of practice for new technology. Now our challenge is to leverage the partnerships that made our application competitive into attracting companies and investments to create more opportunities for our area,” says Tom Banta, Director of Strategic Growth with ICAD who led the application effort.

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