ADS Transit shuttle bus on gravel road

Automated Driving Systems (ADS) for Rural America

ADS for Rural America is a project that is testing the use of automated driving technologies on rural roadways to examine and understand the unique needs of rural environments, while working toward solutions that improve safety and mobility.

Goals

1. Improve safety on our nation’s roadways with the integration of Automated Driving Systems (ADS). ADS technologies show promise of greater safety on our roadways, as 94% of all crashes are due to human factors or errors.

2. Represent rural roadways in AV research. Rural roads present unique challenges:

  • Sharp curves and grades
  • Limited sight distances
  • Gravel, unpaved roads without lane markings
  • Slow-moving vehicles on the road, such as farm equipment
  • Animals on the road
  • Extreme weather conditions

Due to the complexity of rural environments, most AV testing and mapping has been focused on urban, clearly‐marked roads. We're doing rural testing for rural solutions.

3. Broaden mobility: Show how automated vehicles can provide transportation options for those not able to drive, such as aging populations and those with disabilities. We aim to connect those people in rural areas to the services they need. Since public transportation is often scarce or non-existent in rural areas, mobility means independence and can significantly improve quality of life.

While 19% of Americans live in rural areas, nearly 50% of traffic fatalities occur on rural roads.

Video overview

News

safety driver and co-pilot

Dec. 2021 update: Phase 1 of project complete

The ADS for Rural America project launched in October 2021 and has completed its first phase of data collection. See an example map and learn more about the roles of the safety driver and co-pilot.
Mandli Communications van with equipment to create HD map

The brain of an automated vehicle

Mandli Communications created the high-definition (HD) map of our 47-mile ADS for Rural America route. The HD map has been installed as part of the brain of our automated shuttle bus—allowing the vehicle to identify where it is on the road within 10 cm.
Automated shuttle bus on rural Iowa road

Ride with us! Participation sign-up now open

Want to ride in a partially automated vehicle with us? We’re now looking for people who are age 65 or older, have a disability that affects their mobility (age 25 or older), or have low vision impairment (age 25 or older). We’ll be stopping in Iowa City, Hills, Riverside, and Kalona.

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ADS for Rural America

This $7 million project is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and is spearheaded by researchers at the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa.