Ely resident concerned over road closure for autonomous vehicle tests

Published: Feb. 5, 2019 at 5:29 PM CST
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A planned road closure in one part of Linn County has some people upset about the detour it creates.

About a mile of Ely road south of Cedar Rapids will be closed for a self-driving car experiment in the coming weeks. The University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator is running the tests.

Several viewers asked TV9 to look into the detour the tests will create and why the Linn County Board of Supervisors supported the project.

Truck driver Jeff Carmer of Ely is upset the way he gets to work will soon change.

"It's going to effect me by about twenty minutes each way to and from work," said Carmer. "I don't get that time back."

About a mile of Ely Road is slated to be shut down for six to seven weeks.

The National Advanced Driving Simulator team at the University of Iowa will be using a Tesla in order to conduct an autonomous vehicle research study in that area.

The road closure will come with it detours from Wright Brothers Boulevard East to 76th Avenue Southwest.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors approved the road closure. I9 brought the concerns of people like Carmer to them.

Supervisors Stacey Walker and Brent Oleson tell I9 they are standing behind their decision. Walker however concedes he is sorry the road closure will be an inconvenience for some but insists the sacrifice is important.

In a written statement Supervisor Walker said in part, "Automated vehicles are the future, and we will be benefited by all that we can learn right now about how to makes these vehicles safer."

"Our goal with any road closure is to make sure the detour route is easily accessible and does not add significant time for commuters," said Oleson in a statement. "In analyzing the University of Iowa's Driving Safety Program's request for use of Ely Road for an autonomous automobile study we found that the three-minute detour route met those goals and that study was important to support."

Officials with the The National Advanced Driving Simulator also say Linn County was chosen for a reason. Following their review of "several counties", the spot they claim had the "physical features" their experiments will require.

"You can't tell me there is not a piece of pavement in Johnson County, in their own back yard," said Carmer.

The project will be able to begin once the approval is given by the University of Iowa's Institutional Review Board.