Edward J. Haug, a professor of mechanical engineering, founds Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD) to conduct research in dynamics. 

Iowa Driving Simulator
The original Iowa Driving Simulator


The initial Iowa Driving Simulator configuration is operational, the first in the nation. The motion base was later added in 1993 and came from a B-52 bomber simulator. 


NHTSA selects the UI to house the new National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), which would become the most sophisticated research driving simulator in the world. 


The first automated driving simulations in the world are done at the University of Iowa. Forward collision warning and ACC systems are designed, developed, and tested for NHTSA. 


NADS begins building virtual replicas of military proving grounds, such as the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where the government tests military vehicles. 


Ground is broken for the new NADS facility.

Ground breaking of the new National Advanced Driving Simulator
Ed Haug, UI president Mary Sue Coleman, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin at the groundbreaking in 1998


UI begins first drugged driving study: “Effects of Fexofenadine, Diphenhydramine, and Alcohol on Driving Performance.”

2001 (fall)

NADS-1 is operational. The facility is operated on a self-sustaining basis by the UI. NHTSA owns the simulator while the UI takes responsibility for operation and maintenance. UI owns the building, land, and the software that runs the NADS-1.


The first formal study done on the NADS-1 is a study on tire failure and loss of control.


A wireless phone study is conducted—the first at NADS about driver distraction. 


NADS begins work with John Deere, and a tractor cab is created for use in the NADS-1 simulator. 


NADS builds a portable simulator for outreach to high school students, which eventually leads to the creation of the miniSim program in 2009.


The NADS-2 simulator—the second simulator at NADS—is ready for business.

Based partially on research done at NADS, NHTSA mandates that all new vehicles must have electronic stability control.


  • The first cannabis study on driving performance is conducted at NADS.
  • The first on-road vehicle is purchased for NADS research, a Toyota Camry.


NADS is awarded a grant that would grow to $11.2 million over eight years from the U.S. DOT to fund SAFER-SIM: Safety Research Using Simulation. 


MyCarDoesWhat.org campaign launched to educate consumers about advanced driver assistance systems. 

ADS for Rural America Ford transit on rural road
The Ford Transit shuttle bus is the newest vehicle in the DSRI fleet and was purchased for the ADS for Rural America project.


Automated vehicles are added to the NADS fleet: a Volvo XC90, Tesla Model S75D, and Lincoln MKZ. 


U.S. DOT awards NADS a $7 million grant for the Automated Driving Systems for Rural America project.


The NADS facility is renamed the University of Iowa Driving Safety Research Institute to better reflect the unit’s expertise in both driving simulation and on-road driving research.

Directors past and present

Ed Haug: 1997–1998

L.D. Chen: 1998–2006

Karim Abdel-Malek: 2006–2008

Herm Reininga: 2008–2016

Daniel McGehee: 2016–present

See also

For more information on the history or development of the NADS-1, see:

"The Long and Winding Road: 25 Years of the National Advanced Driving Simulator" published in IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications (Volume: 43, Issue: 4, 01 July–Aug. 2023)