Could Iowa Lead the Way in Driverless Car Technology?

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The technology is here. Iowa City, Iowa's, economic development organization ICAD Group (the Iowa City Area Development Group) is working with local government and the state of Iowa to try and make Iowa a haven for research and development of self-driving vehicles.

ICAD Group provides economic and workforce development services for the greater Iowa City area.

July 14 tweet from Debi Durham of the Iowa Economic Development Authority: IEDA is partnering with @ICADGroup @AUVSI, Iowa is positioned well to accelerate autonomous vehicle technology. #autoauto

Working with the State of Iowa, the Iowa City Area Development (ICAD) Group is spreading the message that the state of Iowa can be a haven for research and development of self-driving vehicles.

Representatives from ICAD Group and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) are in California attending the Automated Vehicle Symposium in San Francisco, July 15 to 17. The goal is to learn more about the industry and grab the attention of companies like Google, Tesla and Volvo.

According to Mark Nolte, President of the ICAD Group, all indications are the next major transformational technology to jump onto the scene is in the transportation space. “The next advancement is the movement to autonomous vehicles and the race for commercialization has become intensified,” said Nolte. “The automakers are racing not only to keep up with each other, but new outside players such as Google.”

The Iowa contingent has multiple assets to tout. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa and the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Numerous Iowa companies have pioneered similar systems for agricultural vehicles, aerospace and defense. Presently, ICAD Group is working with IEDA to map those assets that exist in Iowa.

“Iowa has the potential to be a major player in this emerging industry,” added Nolte. “This technology has major implications for the many insurance and logistics companies headquartered in our state.”

Through meetings, presentations and demonstrations in San Francisco, representatives from ICAD Group and IEDA hope to illustrate five areas where Iowa can play a key role in this industry:•    First and foremost, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, and a highly-skilled and educated workforce working in the driving research field,

  • Eastern Iowa’s central location, proximity to major metropolitan areas, and road infrastructure has made it a strategic location for industry leading trucking companies,
  • Past experience and success in advancement and new discoveries in driverless technologies, specifically within the fields of avionics, defense and agriculture,
  • A nascent IT and software community, specifically in the fields of simulation, sensor technology and artificial intelligence,
  • And, a mix of terrain, road surfaces, and weather.

Much of ICAD Group’s work to date was recently reported by Sarah Binder of

Within her story, Binder recounts her discussions with Daniel McGehee, who has studied driving technology for over twenty years and is the Director of the Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Division at the University of Iowa.

In addition to Iowa’s four seasons and various road surfaces, McGehee says what the industry needs right now is repetition. ““Really, what all these companies need now is mileage,” said McGehee. “The more the cars drive, the more they see, it makes them more intelligent.”

ICAD Group started this initiative in March and continues to meet with multiple partners throughout Eastern Iowa, and the state, to find consensus on the next steps for this burgeoning industry. Working with local and county governments, the state department of transportation, local business and automotive partners, Iowa could be the first state to go beyond limited testing.

“Along with the primary goal of safety, Iowa could reap significant economic impact and job creation by positioning itself as a leader in the testing, research and implementation of autonomous vehicle systems,” said Nolte.

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Eric Hanson
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