DARPA has announced the 36 semi-finalists for this year's Urban Challenge.
DARPA also announced that both the Urban Challenge NQE and final event will take place at the urban military training facility located on the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif. DARPA selected the location because its network of urban roads best simulate the type of terrain American forces operate in when deployed overseas. “The robotic vehicles will conduct simulated military supply missions at the site. This adds many of the elements these vehicles would face in operational environments,” explained Dr. Tether.
The Victorville site is currently used by the U.S. Army to train for urban operations. As soon as the Army finishes their training rotation, DARPA will conduct clean-up operations to ready the site for the competition. DARPA emphasized that as of today’s announcement, the site is closed until team arrival on October 24. Photographs of the site and more information about the event are available at www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge.
At the NQE and the final event, the robots must operate entirely autonomously, without human intervention, and obey California traffic laws while performing maneuvers such as merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, and avoiding moving obstacles. Dr. Tether noted, “The vehicles must perform as well as someone with a California Driver’s License.”
DARPA conducted competitive site visits across the United States to select the semi-finalists. Dr. Tether told attendees at DARPATech that he was at a site visit and was surprised how well the team’s autonomous vehicle made it through an intersection with other cars, just as if there was a human driver in the vehicle. “The depth and quality of this year’s field of competitors is a testimony to how far the technology has advanced since the first Grand Challenge in 2004. DARPA thanks all the contestants for their hard work and dedication and congratulates the teams selected as semi-finalists,” Dr. Tether said.
To qualify for winning, the robo-cars will have to complete a 60-mile fuel resupply mission in under six hours—avoiding moving obstacles, merging into oncoming traffic, and obeying California's driving laws. But the eventual $2 million victor will be picked by a panel of judges—not judged strictly on time.
At today's DARPATech conference, agency director Tony Tether said that prize is “in danger of being passed out.” He recently saw a robot approach an intersection, he said. Then the driverless vehicle waited for other cars to pass, flipped on its turning signal, and drove away.
Update: Ooh, I coincidentally ran across this description of the announced Urban Challenge site: “Note that this area is full of abandoned housing that is host to squatters, gangs, and other marginal people. It is extremely dangerous, and you should not visit this area unless you are prepared to handle these kinds of people.”Posted by jjwiseman at August 09, 2007 01:38 PM