On June 18, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) visited Carnegie Mellon University to test and observe the performance of a robotic SUV that has been prepared to compete in DARPA’s 2007 Urban Challenge, a 60-mile race that will pit driverless vehicles against each other on a course that simulates an urban environment.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartan Racing is entering a 2007 Chevy Tahoe, known as Boss, in this competition. During the site visit, Boss had to demonstrate its emergency “E-stop” mechanism and complete four vehicle- capability tests under the direction of DARPA officials. Using memory sticks, DARPA officials loaded the computerized instructions for each test directly into Boss. The tests are designed to demonstrate the vehicle’s basic ability to navigate on its own and maneuver through traffic.
DARPA is sponsoring the Urban Challenge to foster the development of autonomous robotic ground vehicle technology for use on the battlefield. Tartan Racing is involved in the competition to further robotic technology in general, and to explore in particular how this technology could be used to enhance the safety and convenience of civilian cars and trucks.
Robotic vehicles competing in the Urban Challenge this fall will attempt to complete a 60-mile course through traffic in less than six hours. The vehicles must accomplish this task using their own computer-based control and without human guidance. They must obey traffic laws, merge into moving traffic, avoid obstacles, and navigate intersections and traffic circles.
DARPA will award $2 million, $1 million and $500,000 prizes to the top three finishers that complete the Nov. 3 event within the six-hour time limit. Sponsors of Tartan Racing include General Motors, Caterpillar, Continental AG, Intel, Google, Applanix, TeleAtlas, NetApp, Vector CANTech, Ibeo, Mobileye, HP, CarSim, CleanPower Resources and M/A-COM. For more information, visit www.tartanracing.com and www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.asp
Photo by Ken Andreyo of Carnegie Mellon, shooting a Nikon D2H at 1/1000 sec., F6.3, ISO 200.