Feb. 3, 2021—ADAPT has been reporting on the distinct challenges of implementing ADAS and fully autonomous solutions in rural areas with attention to research from the University of Iowa.
This summer, a partially-autonomous shuttle is set to hit rural roads in Iowa to better inform automakers of the unique challenges that come from such landscapes.
The shuttle’s deployment is the next phase of the University of Iowa’s Automated Driving Systems for Rural America project.
Omar Ahmad, deputy director of the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator and head of the ADS project, said, “We are here to provide an independent perspective on [automated vehicles] and what it takes for them to operate on rural roadways and aid populations that are underserved.”
If all goes according to plan, Ahmad said the project will eventually help those who are mobility-impaired by providing transportation solutions in rural areas lacking public transit systems.
Nuts and Bolts
Ahmad said construction of the shuttle began last fall, but he and his staff have only had one week to spend with the vehicle.
First, the chassis of the shuttle was assembled at a Ford plant in Claycomo, Mo. From there, he said they sent the vehicle onto Goshen, Ind., where it was made ADA compliant, including the addition of a wheelchair lift.
“Then we had [the vehicle] for a week, and during that time we took footage and photographs,” he said.
Currently, the shuttle can be found in Morton, Ill., where it's being outfitted with camera, radar, and lidar sensors. Ahmad said the vehicle is being instrumented by AutonomouStuff, a software and engineering services company.
Ahmad said while the vehicle’s instrumentation is underway, the project’s partners at Mandli Communications will be creating high-definition maps of the shuttle’s 47-mile route.