Automated shuttle bus on project route between Iowa City and Kalona

Safety drivers 

A trained safety driver and co-pilot will monitor—and at times drive manually—the partially automated shuttle bus along a set 47-mile route that has been specially mapped for automated driving. The safety driver can easily take control of the vehicle back from the automated system at any time (as easy as taking a vehicle out of cruise control).


We will recruit participants to ride with us: those over age 65 or those 25 and older with a disability that affects their ability to drive. Learn more about participating.

The vehicle

A Ford Transit shuttle bus has been outfitted at Hexagon | AutonomouStuff with custom technologies to allow the vehicle to perform at different levels of automation. The vehicle is wheelchair accessible (ADA compliant) and was purchased as part of the Buy America Act. The tech partners are also based in the Midwest: AutonomouStuff in Illinois for outfitting the vehicle with automated features, and Mandli Communications in Wisconsin for high-definition road mapping. 

The equipment on the vehicle is shown below. 

Equipment labeled on automated shuttle bus
  1. GPS antenna
  2. DSRC antenna
  3. High-definition cameras (2)
  4. Velodyne Lidar (on front, sides, and rear of vehicle)
  5. Webcam video camera (front and rear)
  6. Mobileye collision avoidance system
  7. Vaisala mobile detector: road, surface, and weather data
  8. Long range radar (front and rear)

Other interior equipment and data collection devices are shown in the following graphic:

Outline graphic of automated shuttle bus, pointing out interior cameras, wearable physiologic sensor, on-board computer, etc.

Safety precautions

A safety driver will be behind the wheel at all times, watching the road ahead and driving the vehicle anytime automations are not in use. A co-pilot in the front passenger seat will also be monitoring the automations. An additional research team member will be on board to assist with study participants.

COVID-19 impact: We are also taking all proper precautions to protect those involved from possible transmission of COVID-19. We are implementing protective measures to keep people as safe as possible. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and adapt as needed.

Where will drives occur? 

Click for detailed rural route
Click for detailed rural route

The route is a 47 mile loop, driven clockwise, with four stops:

  • Iowa City Marketplace (formerly Sycamore Mall)
  • Hills Community Center
  • Riverside Casino
  • Kalona Public Library

Road types include:

  • Marked
  • Unmarked
  • Unpaved

Other variables:

  • Will span all four seasons of the year
  • Variety of weather conditions
  • Different times of day
  • Construction areas

The route is being mapped in high-definition—much more accurate than a standard GPS. This high-definition map works in tandem with the vehicle's on-board sensors to accurately place the vehicle on the road: either between lane markings (when available) or to the appropriate spot on the road (when lane markings are not present). 

Ford Transit automated shuttle bus photo gallery


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