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Iowa City driving simulator awarded $1.45 million to research automated vehicles

The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) in Iowa City has been awarded $1.45 million from the National Highway Safety Administration through the U.S. Department of Transportation to study transition control in automated vehicles.

Transition control allows humans to take back control from the automation vehicle. In some vehicles, there are features that allow the vehicle to perform parts of driving tasks under certain conditions like traffic jams. The organization is researching the amount of time it takes vehicle automation to warn the driver that they need to take control, and the amount of time it takes the human to disengage what they’re doing and become completely aware of the state of automation.

John Gaspar is the director of human factors research at NADS and is the lead researcher for the project.

“This builds nicely on previous research we’ve been doing for years with NHTSA on other transition of control models,” said Gaspar in a release. “We have the perfect toolkit with the NADS-1 simulator to do this study. Its motion base will allow us to study the complete transition of control from the automated system back to the human driver.”

In a related study, this past spring, NADS was also awarded $7 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to examine automated driving on rural roads, as well as passengers’ perceptions and acceptance of the technology.

The project—called Automated Driving Systems (ADS) for Rural America—will recruit individuals in from local communities to be passengers in the automated mobility van. Those recruited will be age 65 and older or have a disability that affects their mobility. Researchers will study the individuals’ comfort levels and perceptions of the technology. It will be driven by a safety driver on a 47-mile route through Iowa City, Hills, Riverside and Kalona beginning likely in summer 2021.

Iowa City driving simulator awarded $1.45 million to research automated vehicles | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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