March 11, 2004
DARPA Rules Relaxed?

terramax crashing
terramax ramming a minivan, from

Wired News reports that after only one vehicle (Sandstorm, the Red Team entry) finished the qualifying course for the Grand Challenge, DARPA has relaxed the rules.

The DARPA status report says that out of 16 teams attempting to finish the course today, three (SciAutonics II, Team Caltech and Virginia Tech) succeeded.

The results of the attempts of today s group break down as follows: SciAutonics II, Team Cal Tech and Virginia Tech completed the course. Team CIMAR , Team ENSCO, TerraMax nearly completed the course. Axion Racing, Digital Auto Drive, The Golem Group, Palos Verdes High School, Team CajunBot, TerraHawk partially completed the course. The Blue Team, Rover Systems, SciAutonics I and Team Phantasm terminated their attempts.

A comment from the relevant slashdot thread:

The QID was pathetic. We spent two days watching vehicles move around at 1MPH and hit big, obvious obstacles. No way can most of those vehicles operate effectively offroad.

The big design mistakes seem to be these:

  • Using a laser rangefinder aimed horizontally forward as primary obstacle detection. That doesn't work reliably on either dark or smooth objects. The black mini-van was both.
  • Using fixed line scanners. If you miss a data point, you're stuck. There's no way to take a second look.
  • Overreliance on vision. Computer vision in unstructured situations has a very poor track record.
Posted by jjwiseman at March 11, 2004 04:38 PM

"a very poor track record" - HAR!

Posted by: foo on March 11, 2004 07:17 PM
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