National Advanced Driving Simulator

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The National Advanced Driving Simulator is a self-sustained transportation safety research center at the University of Iowa. It is the nation's largest and first simulator of its kind anywhere in the world. The center conducts human factors research on driver behavior, with emphasis on advanced vehicle technologies and drowsy, impaired, and distracted driving.

The mission of the National Advanced Driving Simulator is to improve safety by researching the connection between drivers, motor vehicles, and road users.


The National Advanced Driving Simulator was developed from 1996 through 2001 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conduct human factors research on driver behavior. The center utilizes a number of driving simulators, including the NADS-1, NADS-2, and a number of miniSims, as well as on-road vehicles.

NADS-1 driving simulator


The National Advanced Driving Simulator simulation center is best known for its high-fidelity ground vehicle driving simulator, NADS-1. The NADS-1 houses an actual full-size vehicle cab and projects scenery 360-degrees around the driver on the interior walls of the dome that houses the cab. The vehicle cab is mounted on four independent actuators that provide vibration associated with driving on varying road surfaces. The entire dome is mounted on motion base that can independently provide yaw, roll, pitch, turning, lateral, and longitudinal cues to the driver. All in all, the NADS-1 has a 13 degree-of-freedom motion base resulting in the largest motion envelope of any driving simulator in the United States and second largest in the world.

The combined motion, graphics, audio, control feel and software systems on the NADS-1 reproduce the closest experience to driving an actual vehicle. The motion system’s unique capabilities set it apart from other simulators, thus enabling NADS-1 to accurately reproduce motion cues for sustained acceleration and braking maneuvers, movement across multiple lanes of traffic, and interaction with varying road surfaces. Realistic reproduction of these combined maneuvers is not possible in fixed-base or limited lateral movement simulators. Motion cues for NADS-1 are correlated with other sensory stimuli, providing the highest fidelity real-time driving experience in a simulated environment.

The 24-foot NADS-1 dome has enough space to house full-size vehicles cabs which can be swapped in and out of the dome. The current collection of vehicle cabs include a passenger sedan, a mid-sized sports utility vehicle, a heavy truck semi cab and an agricultural tractor cab. Each cab is instrumented to respond to driver inputs and provide feedback that replicates driving the vehicle on a real road.


The NADS-2 is a fixed base version of the NADS-1 with a limited forward field of view. This simulator features high resolution projectors with a physical glare source for simulating the glare from headlights of oncoming vehicles. It uses the same interchangable cabs as the NADS-1. This is an ideal complement to the NADS-1 for simulation needs that don't require motion or wrap-around visuals.



The miniSim is a portable, high-performance driving simulator designed for research, development, clinical, and training applications. This simulator is based on the state-of-the-art driving simulation technology that has been developed through decades of research at the National Advanced Driving Simulator and the University of Iowa. The miniSim harnesses the technology found in the world’s most advanced driving simulator, the NADS-1, into a smaller footprint at a lower cost.

The miniSim has been designed to be packaged with a variety of hardware and software components tailored to suit client requirements. The standard miniSim configuration uses a single 42-inch display with steering, pedals, shifter and seat from an actual vehicle.

On-Road Vehicles[edit]

The center's automated vehicles division utilizes a number of vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems and automated capabilities. These vehicles are used to collect data for research programs funded through industry and government contracts. Usage fees are charged to funding agencies to utilize and support these vehicles.

One of the center's on-road vehicles also supports a simulator mode of operation. The vehicle has a drive-in booth in the garage at the National Advanced Driving Simulator facility where it can be converted into a limited simulator within 15 minutes. The vehicle is parked in front of a 60-inch flat screen display that provides the visuals. The current configuration allows drivers to respond to pre-recorded videos of simulation drives by pressing the accelerator or brake pedals. Future enhancements include adding rotating pads under the front wheels to support steering as well integration with a miniSim for real-time driver-in-the-loop simulation.


Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds[edit]

In 2017, the US DOT named the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor as one of the nation's ten designated Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds (AVPG). These ten AVPGs were selected from a competitive group of more than 60 applicants. The designation encourages testing and information sharing around automated vehicle technologies in the region and is also the next logical step in an effort to advance the safe deployment of more highly automated vehicle technology. The AVPG is developing through a partnership between the University of Iowa, the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), and the Iowa DOT.

SAFER-SIM University Transportation Center[edit]

Safety Research Using Simulation (SAFER-SIM) consists of a multidisciplinary, synergistic team of researchers in human factors, engineering, computer science, and psychology who use innovative simulation approaches ranging from microsimulation to human-in-the-loop simulation to promote safety. SAFER-SIM sponsors research, outreach activities in STEM areas, and workforce development efforts in transportation safety.

SAFER-SIM’s multidisciplinary team studies how road users, roadway infrastructure, and new vehicle technologies interact and interface with each other using microsimulation and state-of-the-art driving, bicycling, and pedestrian simulators. SAFER-SIM’s platform is used to not only understand present needs, but also to evaluate and develop futuristic technologies.

In the fall of 2016, the US DOT awarded the SAFER-SIM University Transportation Center (UTC) a Tier 1 UTC grant with a research priority of promoting safety, continuing efforts from its 2013 UTC-awarded program.

The SAFER-SIM UTC consortium consists of the UI, University of Central Florida, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. These sites worked together on the 2013 UTC and built strong relationships through collaboration that has led to the further advancement of transportation safety research, education, and workforce development.


In January 2014, the UI brought in the National Safety Council (NSC) and a number of other partners to embark on an automotive safety research program. The goal was to develop and implement a National Educational Campaign aimed at helping drivers understand advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and other safety-related features in their vehicles. The campaign sought to fill a major void in driver and consumer education: understanding the critical safety technologies that can save lives and prevent injuries on American roadways.

MyCarDoesWhat is a national campaign to help educate drivers on new vehicle safety technologies designed to help prevent crashes. These technologies range from increasing the stability and control of cars to providing warnings about crash threats to automatically intervening to avoid or reduce the severity of a crash. The goal of this campaign is to explain to drivers how best to use these safety technologies, leading to safer driving.


On average, personnel at the UI Hospitals and Clinics have only seven to eight minutes of warning from a trauma page before an ambulance arrives at the emergency department (ED) with a crash victim. TraumaHawk is a smartphone app for law enforcement designed by the UI to connect first responders to hospital trauma teams. At the scene of a crash, first responders use TraumaHawk to generate and send a report to the receiving trauma center with vital collision information, as well as photographs showing extent of intrusion and damage in a vehicle’s occupant compartment. This TraumaHawk alert provides ED physicians and nurses with a better sense of the severity of a patient’s injuries and, as a result, allows for better preparation of resources, such as rooms, equipment, and personnel.

Officially deployed in east-central Iowa in the fall of 2013, TraumaHawk was designed so that on-scene personnel can prepare a report in about one minute. The app alerts trauma staff to the exact location of the crash, sends relevant photos (law enforcement can select views of the crash through a simple user interface), and allows for the addition of contextual information. Icons help first responders focus on relevant areas of interest, such as looking for steering wheel deformation, A-pillar compromise, roof crush, and other intrusions into the occupant compartment.

Results continue to show that there is a significant time advantage for the ED when a TraumaHawk alert is issued. This increase in the notification time allows for the appropriate facility and human resources to be prepared and standing by, provides more time to organize necessary care plans for the incoming trauma patients, and additional time to alert appropriate specialists prior to patient arrival.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°42′29″N 91°36′06″W / 41.7080°N 91.6017°W / 41.7080; -91.6017