This is just a test: University of Iowa puts rural autonomous driving through its paces

At a casual glance, it looks like any Lincoln MKZ. But it’s smarter.

“It can talk to a couple school buses in the Solon Community district,” Omar Ahmad said. “It can talk to a couple of tractors.”

One of a small fleet of test vehicles maintained by the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator, or NADS, the Lincoln recently served as a test platform for technology Ahmad, NADS’ deputy director, and others expect will improve travel for rural Americans…

“We don’t have that. Our economy is more rural, which means driving on gravel roads, driving on roads that are not marked. We see a great opportunity in being a leader in the rural automated driving space.”

A $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation is funding NADS research into how automated vehicles operate on rural roads.