A trained safety driver and co-pilot carefully 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 easily and quickly switches to manual driving at any time (as easy as taking a vehicle out of cruise control).
We are recruiting 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 riding with us.
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.
- GPS antenna: works with a high-definition map of our route, which locates the vehicle on the road within 10 cm
- Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) antenna
- Leopard traffic light cameras: detects color of traffic lights
- LiDARs (Light Detection and Ranging): uses scanning lasers to detect objects (on front, sides, and rear of vehicle)
- Webcam video camera (front and rear)
- Mobileye collision avoidance system
- Vaisala mobile detector: transmits road data, surface conditions, and weather data
- Long range radars: uses radio waves to detect objects (front and rear)
Other interior equipment and data collection devices are shown in the following graphic:
A safety driver is behind the wheel at all times, watching the road ahead and driving the vehicle manually anytime automations are not in use. A co-pilot in the front passenger seat is also monitoring the automations. An additional research team member is on board to work 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 do drives occur?
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:
- 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).