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Release: April 2, 1999

National Advanced Driving Simulator project at UI attracts $1.72 million in federal contracts

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Virtual Proving Ground Division of the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) at the University of Iowa has received two contracts from the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) with a total value of $1.72 million.

The first, a two-year $720,000 project, will enable TACOM's motion simulators to conduct real-time simulations of tanks and other vehicles through network integration with the NADS. Under the terms of the contract, which began Nov. 1, 1998, NADS is providing high-resolution terrain databases representing the Aberdeen Proving Ground and other Army test facilities.

The second, a three-year, $1 million project that began Jan. 1, involves the development of a virtual proving ground for vehicles and heavy equipment. John Deere, through the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) at the University of Iowa, also provides financial support concurrent with TACOM's funding for development of simulation technologies.

According to L.D. Chen, professor of mechanical engineering and interim NADS director, the two projects are a significant addition to research activities at NADS.

"In the first project, the NADS research group will develop capabilities to link the NADS simulator with other simulators," Chen said. "NADS can be a national, as well as a global, center for advanced simulators.

"The second project will be a fine example of the duality of technology developed for military and civilian applications. Other current research activities include developing high fidelity and real-time simulation for vehicles and heavy equipment and devising tools for synthetic visual environments," he said.

He noted that although the NADS simulator will not be completed until next year, NADS researchers will be able to purchase simulator time from the university's five-year-old Iowa Driving Simulator, if their projects should require demonstration in the interim.

The leaders of the two projects are: Dario Solis, Modeling and Simulation Branch chief; Yiannis Papelis, Simulator Technology Branch chief; and James Turner, Virtual Proving Ground Division manager. The director of I/UCRC is Edward Haug, Carver Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and NADS founder.

The NADS research group is housed in the new NADS Building at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Research Park. Currently under construction and expected to be operational in May of 2000, the NADS simulator will be a national shared-use facility. It will be the world's most advanced driving simulator for research to achieve fundamental improvements in highway safety and transportation efficiency, and to enhance vehicle and equipment product development effectiveness without the need to construct expensive prototypes. The NADS project includes a $34 million federal government contract with TRW Inc. of San Diego to construct the simulator and UI and state contributions of about $12 million for the NADS building and UI software.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), through a nationwide competition, selected the UI as the site for a national, shared-use driving simulator facility in 1992 and is developing it as a cooperative effort with the university. In addition to being the most advanced device of its kind in the world, NADS at the UI is also a research organization, composed of experts in the areas of vehicle dynamics and simulation, simulator technology and virtual reality environment, and human factors. Researchers from medicine, engineering and other fields will conduct interdisciplinary research, for example, aimed at reducing the estimated 90 percent of all vehicle crashes in which human behavior is a factor. NADS is useful to researchers from government, industry and universities for the study of such phenomena as the effects of fatigue, aging, medical conditions, vehicle engineering and highway design on driver performance.