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Eastern Iowa Becomes a Proving Ground for Driverless Vehicles

National Advanced Driving Simulator

The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected the Iowa City area to be one of its ten proving grounds for driverless cars. Testing is scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

The Iowa City Area Development Group submitted the application to be considered one of the sites for testing automated vehicles. Its director of strategic growth, Tom Banta, says the presence of the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa helped the application stand out.

“There is really only one or two of those in the world," he says. "So, that was definitely a unique aspect we had in place.”

Banta, says transportation officials were drawn to the area because of local government support for research.

“A couple years ago, Johnson County and Linn County passed legislation allowing for testing of automated vehicles on our roads and highways," he says. "We were among the first counties in the country to pass that legislation.”

Among the other possible proving grounds are two race tracks, Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids and the Iowa Speedway in Newton, and an old runway at the Iowa City Airport. All sites must be ready for testing by January 2018.