Iowa City continues looking into impact of autonomous vehicles in town

Published: Oct. 11, 2018 at 5:54 PM CDT
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As exciting as the idea of self-driving cars is, preparing for them takes a lot of work. Iowa City is starting from the ground up by planning how it looks street-wise.

The city is looking into infrastructure investments and land use decisions that could impact the future of self-driving cars. Back in March, the city hired a University of Iowa student to study the possibilities of it and how it could affect city streets.

Houssain Mohiuddin is an international student from Bangladesh. He said he focused his studying on how to adapt the change in the city's transit.

"As we know, ridership is declining from recent years but I think automated vehicle technology can help transit system revive those ridership issues," said Mohiuddin.

The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) has been studying autonomous vehicles for about 20 years now. The director agrees that self-driving vehicles, specifically buses, could be a huge benefit in town.

"Iowa City is actually a perfect city for some of these slow-speed transit buses that would operate just in the intercity," said NADS Director Dan McGehee.

The buses can stop frequently and don't require someone to be behind the wheel.

"These vehicles don't get sleepy like drivers that are working the night shift, they don't get distracted," said McGehee.

Mohiuddin said it could even mean the possibility of less traffic. Though, the technology does bring up other questions that still need to be solved.

"What would be the cybersecurity? If there is an automated vehicle on the road, will there actually be less traffic accidents? If there's automated vehicles on the road how will it interact with the other vehicles?" said Mohiuddin.

NADS said the possibility of autonomous vehicles to the mainstream extent is still a couple decades away.