Wonder why one of the ten AVPGs is located in the heart of the Midwest? Because we’ve got something unique. The Iowa AVPG provides a wide variety of testing environments, with notable examples such as highways, interstate, urban roads, a university campus, secondary and gravel roads, paved roads with unmarked lanes, unmarked agricultural field entrances, and the country’s largest and most expansive simulated virtual environment at the National Advanced Driving Simulator.
Learn more about a few of our testing grounds and facilities here.
National Advanced Driving Simulator
NADS is the nation’s largest and first simulator of its kind anywhere in the world, making the UI a leader in vehicle research. For more than 20 years, NADS
researchers have studied the connection between humans and vehicles through driving simulation and on-road research. Our contributions have helped to deepen understandings of countless transportation challenges, including those relating to automated vehicle technologies. Additionally, the UI has played an instrumental role in shaping the consumer education about advanced vehicle technologies through the MyCarDoesWhat.org campaign.
NADS is home to Springfield, a virtual automated vehicle proving grounds environment that covers a total of 285 square miles, more area than the City of Chicago. Hundreds of miles of roadways, roadway types, intersections, traffic lights, and signs are included in the virtual environment. Springfield offers experimental control of automated vehicles in a variety of conditions, automation levels, and scenarios that cannot be easily or safely replicated on-road or even in a test track environment.
A full suite of simulator cabs is available with the NADS simulator, including the traditional passenger vehicle cab, heavy truck cab, and tractor cab, with the possibility to expand cab types. The NADS is also home to the miniSimTM, a smaller, mobile simulator.
Beyond our facilities, the UI prides itself on taking an interdisplinary research approach to addressing the complexities of transportation. Collaboration is key to the uniqueness of the Iowa AVPG.
Communities in the Iowa AVPG realize the promise of automated vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies. Both Johnson and Linn counties have passed proclamations enabling and encouraging open road testing of automated vehicles. Additionally, a number of area communities have also adopted proclamations or voiced their support for the Iowa AVPG and its research activities.
Our small “big” town feel sets us apart. Few data currently exist from an agricultural or rural area for automated vehicle technology. The Iowa AVPG offers the quick maneuvering and relatively low traffic congestion throughout the region (compared to a larger sized urban core), meaning more time can be spent on data collection and testing rather than commuting from test site to test site. All while experiencing a variety of driving conditions and scenarios along the way.
With several vehicles equipped with automated technologies in its fleet, NADS is already leading the way in on-road testing. Our on-road vehicles are a core component of our research efforts and can aid in developing scenarios that are better served by simulation rather than on-road.
Closed Course Testing
A number of closed test tracks available for automated vehicle testing are located within the Iowa AVPG. Racetracks and speedways include direct access to urban areas and are in close proximity to the interstate system, as well as heavy industrial areas.
Additionally, the Iowa AVPG is home to a unique 2,000-acre rural parcel of land available for closed secondary road testing. With this parcel, we have the ability to test imperfect road scenarios and lane markings in a rural setting. The parcel’s location to surrounding agriculture also offers a range of farm-to-market automated vehicle testing scenarios.
A mid-size urban airport landing strip has also committed to the use of one of its defunct runways for automated vehicle technology testing. Use of this facility allows us the ability to edit and adapt the closed environment to test in various lane marking conditions prior to going on-road.
Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor
The Iowa DOT’s multi-phase project, “Automated Vehicle Technologies Project,” is currently laying the foundation for the future of transportation and mobility in Iowa. The project focuses on portions of I-80 and I-380 from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City (the Iowa AVPG corridor) and leverages technology to create a more efficient and safe road network. Initially, the project will map the I-380 and I-80 corridor with high-definition mapping, developing real-time predictive traffic maps to allow transportation officials the ability for automated and connected vehicles to better communicate with the infrastructure and other vehicles. The project includes information integration to the vehicle regarding the state traffic management center data, roadway conditions, and real-time traffic conditions from the cloud to the driver and vehicle. The vehicle and driver can also communicate reported issues to the cloud as well, building for an overall infrastructure system that includes vehicle to X and X to vehicle.
Vehicle connection to roadway and traffic conditions will be a vital component to the overall testing of automated vehicles.