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Iowa County says yes to driverless cars

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — An eastern Iowa county is one of the first across the USA to open its arms to driverless cars.

Johnson County supervisors said Thursday they want the county on the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles, so they are allowing them on county streets. The cities of Coralville, Iowa City and North Liberty are expected to follow with their own resolutions.

Exactly when driverless vehicles will roll down the streets here can’t be predicted yet. But President Mark Nolte of the Iowa City Area Development Group said the discussion at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco last week made one thing clear: “It is absolutely what is coming.”

Nolte was at the symposium to court companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which needs roads where it can hone its vehicle technology. He hopes to sell the technology giant on the University of Iowa, which houses the National Advanced Driving Simulator, as well as the state’s open spaces.

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The national center, home to a range of simulators that offer varied levels of driving realism, has been conducting automated vehicle research for nearly 20 years.

After attending the symposium, Nolte said he thought driverless cars could hit the road within five to 10 years. But first, car companies must prove in a real environment that the cars can work effectively and safely.

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