The University of Iowa’s president is proposing creation of an “AIMS Institute” on the Iowa City campus.

“And AIMS stands for Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems,” University of Iowa president Sally Mason says. “And yes, it does mean cars that will drive themselves.”

Mason “looks forward” to the day when she can get in a car and have it do the driving for her.

“Experts have indeed predicted that autonomous vehicles will be mainstream on U.S. highways by 2026,” Mason says, “that this will lead to reduced traffic and pollution, increased safety and energy conservation and more independent mobility for the elderly and physically challenged.”

Mason is asking the governor and legislators to provide $1 million in state funding in each of the next three years to create a public-private partnership between the University of Iowa and companies like John Deere and Rockwell Collins that are developing machines that do not require a human operator.

“Iowa has the ideal combination of soils, streets, spaces and skies to develop and test and commercialize, ultimately, autonomous technologies,” Mason says, “and the University of Iowa has complimentary research expertise and facilities.”

Mason lists laboratories on campus, like the National Advanced Driving Simulator and the Injury Prevention Research Center as facilities that could be used in the research. Mason says federal grants are available for this kind of collaboration between people who work at a university and people who work in a business. She proposes creation of a board of directors that would guide the institute’s research, and it would include officials and researchers from the University of Iowa along with people from the Iowa businesses involved in such research.

“Driverless cars are just one example of autonomous machines,” Mason says. “There are also revolutionary developments in agriculture and aerospace, just for example, and that’s why we think this is a very, very special opportunity for the state of Iowa. This transition from manual to semi-autonomous and autonomous will have very far reaching effects on our society as well as on the state economy and I think the state of Iowa is uniquely positioned to become a world leader in this area.”

Mason made her comments during a budget presentation in the governor’s office last week.