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UI researchers to study distracted driving with autonomous Tesla

LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) — University of Iowa researchers at the National Advanced Driving Simulator have plans to shut down Ely road in Linn County for six to eight weeks, while they study the technology behind autonomous vehicles using distracted drivers.

The project begins Monday, March 11th. Ely Road will be shut down between Wright Brothers Blvd. and 76th St. SW from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, for seven days a week during the project.

From keeping you in your lane, to adjusting your speed and following distance, almost every new car these days is being equipped with autonomous driving features. Now researches at the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) will test out how people are interacting with the technology.

NADS’s Director of Human Factors Research, John Gaspar said it’s all about safety, “Really we want to understand how people interact when the systems, what they do when these systems fail or part becomes deactivated.”

They’ll spend the next six to eight weeks in Linn County on Ely Rd. putting distracted drivers to the test, as part of an effort to collect data and increase safety in future designs.

“Distraction is really important, especially as we get into increasing levels of automation, and the chances drivers will feel more comfortable doing other things like sending text messages or even reaching into the back seat,” said Gaspar.

Along with the data captured by these camera, two researchers will be in the car with their own braking system. Iowa roads and weather also acting as another variable said Gaspar, “A lot of the testing with automated vehicles has been done in sunny places like California or Arizona. Here, we have a variety of different weather conditions and variety of roadway types that hasn’t really been tested as much.”

The research will help drive autonomous technology into the future.

The research is being conducted on Linn County’s Ely Rd. because it meets certain requirements, like being a rural road that has a shoulder for safety.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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