Monday, February 13, 2023
NADS-1 simulator and automated Ford Transit

The University of Iowa National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) has been renamed to the University of Iowa Driving Safety Research Institute (DSRI) to better reflect the unit’s established expertise in driving simulation and emerging work in on-road driving research.  

“We’ve been doing on-road research for more than 15 years, and we collaborate with virtually every college on campus, so it’s time we carry a name that better represents our interdisciplinary capabilities and broader mission of safer roads for all,” said Dan McGehee, director of DSRI and associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, emergency medicine, public health, and public policy.  

As part of the UI College of Engineering, the National Advanced Driving Simulator obtained more than $27 million in funding over the past decade for on-road research studies alone, not including simulator studies. Throughout its history, its research has been entirely self-funded through competitive contracts with the government, industry, and foundations. “We hope this new name will also help expand access to funding opportunities by clearing up any misperceptions that we only do simulation,” added McGehee.  

The field of driving safety research is becoming more essential in society in two key emerging areas: 1) ensuring the safe implementation of automated and new vehicle technologies on roadways, and 2) understanding and measuring the effects of cannabis use on drivers. These are two topics that the University of Iowa is already internationally recognized as experts in the field.  

The National Advanced Driving Simulator name will continue to be the name of the facility’s crown-jewel simulator, the “NADS-1 simulator,” but it will be one piece of the new Driving Safety Research Institute. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues to own the NADS-1 simulator itself, while the University of Iowa takes responsibility for its operation and maintenance. The current facility opened in 2001 while its predecessor, the Iowa Driving Simulator, was established in 1989—giving the University of Iowa more than three decades of driving safety research expertise. The current facility also houses a suite of smaller simulators and a fleet of five on-road research vehicles. Their miniSim program produces and sells custom driving simulators to organizations around the world. 

“While simulation is an essential piece of our interdisciplinary driving safety research, our work has grown into other important areas including on-road studies,” said Harriet Nembhard, dean of the College of Engineering. “This name change is one more way to note our nationally- and internationally-recognized research, which impacts the health and wellbeing of anyone touched by the automotive industry.”