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Release: Immediate

UI to break ground Oct. 24 for world's most advanced simulator

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa's 12:45 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24, 1997 groundbreaking ceremony for the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) project at the UI's Oakdale Research Park means that, after years of planning, the world's most advanced driving simulator -- and the many benefits it is expected to attract -- is only about 18 months from completion.

Those scheduled to speak at the ceremony are: Leodis Davis, president of the UI Research Park Corporation; UI President Mary Sue Coleman; Owen Newlin, president of the State Board of Regents; Donald C. Bischoff, executive director, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); David J. Skorton, UI vice president for research; Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Edward J. Haug, UI professor of engineering and NADS director; and Alexander Schwarzkopf of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NHTSA and the University of Iowa developed the NADS as a cooperative venture dedicated to improved highway safety through the study of driver behavior, motor vehicle performance and the highway environment. In addition to the NADS, the project will include the creation and operation of a new NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) for virtual proving ground simulation with U.S. industry. The first example of such industry cooperation is a new three-year sponsorship of a major research and development effort with the NADS by John Deere Product Engineering Center in Waterloo. (See accompanying news release.)

According to project director and principal investigator Edward J. Haug, the approximately $45 million project will solidify the university's stature as a leading research institution in transportation systems and vehicle design when it opens for business in the spring of 1999.

"The NADS will be the most advanced system of its kind in the world, by far," Haug said. "Daimler Benz of Berlin, Germany recently updated its simulator, currently the most advanced, but the NADS will be far ahead of it and any other in existence. The goal of the project is to achieve fundamental improvements in highway safety, transportation efficiency, and international competitiveness of U.S. vehicle manufacturers."

He added that completion of the NADS, together with formation of a new NSF Center for Virtual Proving Ground Simulation, will make the University competitive for research funding in fields such as highway safety, intelligent transportation systems, virtual prototyping for vehicle development, and a variety of health and human sciences. Examples of some of the many U.S. organizations and companies that may use the NADS include:

* U.S. Department of Transportation, for setting standards for new vehicles and highways.

* Civilian and military auto and truck manufacturers, for advanced vehicle development.

* Auto and truck component suppliers, to test and optimize their products by using the latest models of their clients' vehicles.

* Trucking companies, public safety agencies and the military, to train professional drivers.

* Commercial simulator developers, to design low and moderate cost driving simulators to meet the needs of a growing international market.

According to Haug, test drivers will find the sensory environment offered by NADS a nearly exact copy of "real world" driving. Because the NADS can duplicate the characteristics of potential new vehicles without the need to actually construct those vehicles, time and effort can be saved in designing safer and more efficient highways and vehicles.

Currently, the UI College of Engineering's Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD) operates the most advanced driving simulator in the United States, the Iowa Driving Simulator (IDS). Built as a pre-cursor to NADS in 1991 and completed in its present configuration in 1994, it is valued at about $13 million, and is the second-most advanced ground-based driving simulator in the world, after the Daimler-Benz simulator. A dome, holding a fully functional car cab, sits atop a large hexapod-shaped motion system that moves as drivers maneuver through computer-generated terrain. The roadway and terrain are projected around drivers inside the dome, giving them the feeling that they are part of the environment.

Current IDS research areas are: safety evaluation and highway design, including the study of human factors in crash avoidance; medical influences on driving, studying the driving abilities of people with Alzheimer's disease and those who have had eye surgery; and designing, testing and evaluating new vehicle safety technologies.

The NADS will be similar to the IDS, but will offer far more realistic motion and faster and more realistic computer images than those of the Iowa Driving Simulator, as well as more realistic physical and audio feedback in response to driver commands.

The approximate $45 million valuation for the NADS includes about $34 from the federal government, $5.7 million in building funds from the Iowa state legislature, University of Iowa-developed software appraised by the General Accounting Office at more than $5 million and the invaluable effort of CCAD and other College of Engineering faculty and staff.

University officials acknowledged that the NADS would not have been financially possible without the bi-partisan support of Iowa's Congressional Delegation, led by Harkin.

The UI's Oakdale Research Park administrators said that the NADS is a very important part of the park's development. In 1990, the UI set a goal to locate UI "anchor" laboratories at Oakdale in four selected areas where UI research strengths could be coupled with off-campus interests. The target areas chosen included industrial biotechnology, pharmaceutical development, human health and medicine, and simulation of complex systems. Three of these four anchor facilities are already operational at Oakdale: The laboratories for the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing, the Center for Advanced Drug Development, and the Oakdale College of Medicine laboratories all have been created since 1990.

"Construction of the NADs will complete the vision that the University articulated nearly eight years ago to establish these centers at Oakdale," said Bruce Wheaton, director of the UI Oakdale Research Park."

NADS FACT SHEET AND TIMELINE

WHAT, WHERE and WHEN: The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) project, to be completed by spring, 1999 at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Research Park, will be the world's most advanced driving test facility, similar to flight simulators used by NASA and the U.S. Air Force, to help researchers to build safer and more efficient highways and vehicles without the need to construct expensive prototypes.

WHY and HOW: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the University of Iowa developed the NADS as a cooperative venture dedicated to improved highway safety through the study of driver behavior, motor vehicle performance and the highway environment. The approximate $45 million valuation for the NADS includes about $34 from the federal government, $5.7 million in building funds from the Iowa state legislature and University of Iowa-developed software appraised by the General Accounting Office at more than $5 million.

1992 * NHTSA selects the University of Iowa as the site for the NADS, following a nationwide NHTSA and National Science Foundation competition.

1996 * NHTSA awards a $34 million contract to TRW Inc. to build NADS hardware, including motion, audiovisual, and computer subsystems.

1996 * A joint U.S. House-Senate Transportation Appropriations conference committee finalizes a $14 million appropriation for the project.

1996 * Regents approve design for 38,000-square-foot NADS building.

October 1997 * NADS groundbreaking ceremony at Oakdale Research Park.

October 1998 * Building completed and begins to receive equipment.

April 1999 * NADS completed and ready for use.

10/24/97