Automated vehicle on rural Iowa road

Automated Driving Systems (ADS) for Rural America

ADS for Rural America is a project that will test the use of a custom vehicle with advanced automated technologies on rural roadways. Rural roads present unique challenges and are currently underrepresented in ADS research today. At the same time, the project will study ADS applications for aging, transportation-challenged rural populations aimed at improving their mobility and quality of life.


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.


One of the UI's research vehicles on a rural Iowa road

University of Iowa ramping up automated vehicle testing on local rural roads

University of Iowa researchers with the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) are ramping up their testing of automated vehicles on rural roads—thanks to a $7 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant.
Rural road automated driving

NADS's $7 million automated driving in rural America study featured on Iowa Public Radio

Dan McGehee of the National Advanced Driving Simulator and his colleagues recently received a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to research automated driving in rural America.
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.