Everything's Coming Up Robots: DARPA Grand Challenge
Dramatic progress is expected for robotic ground vehicle prize event, which begins on September 28, and culminates on October 8, 2005September 28, 2005
Each year the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsors a Grand Challenge to promote innovative technical approaches that will enable the autonomous operation of unmanned ground combat vehicles. These autonomous ground vehicles must navigate from point to point while avoiding or accommodating obstacles including nearby vehicles and other impediments, in a field test over realistic terrain that sets specific performance goals for distance and speed.
The Grand Challenge draws widespread attention to the technology issues associated with autonomous vehicles and motivates entrants to overcome the obstacles to the realization of truly robust autonomous ground vehicles. The event challenges the most capable and innovative companies, institutions, and entrepreneurs in the United States and from around the world to produce breakthroughs in capability and performance.
This year's Grand Challenge 2005 Event will be held on October 8, 2005. If the Grand Challenge Event cannot be started on this day, it will be run on the next available day, but no later than October 18, 2005. DARPA plans to conclude the event within the daylight hours of a single day. If for any reason the event cannot be safely completed within this time, DARPA will stop and shut down all vehicles that are on the route and not already disqualified. These remaining vehicles will resume the route from their stopped position the following morning.
Primm, Nevada, will serve as the base of operations for this year's event. Primm was also the location of the finish area for the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge. Although DARPA has announced the Primm location so that event attendees can make travel plans, the exact route will not be disclosed until two hours before the event begins.
The vehicles must travel approximately 145 to 175 miles over rugged desert roads using only onboard sensors and navigation equipment to find and follow the route and avoid obstacles. DARPA will award $2 million to the team whose autonomous vehicle successfully completes the 2005 route the fastest within a 10-hour time period. All vehicles are developed without Government funding.
The Grand Challenge event itself will be preceded by a semi-final competition called the National Qualification Event (NQE), at California Speedway in Fontana, California, from Wednesday, September 28, through Wednesday, October 5. More than 40 semi-finalist teams will compete in the NQE, and the 20 final teams will go on to compete in the Grand Challenge event on October 8.
DARPA selected the semifinalists from a field of 118 entrants, using results from on-site visits conducted by DARPA technical staff. During the site visits, DARPA thoroughly evaluated the capability of each team's vehicle to autonomously navigate a narrow 200-meter course that contained turns and randomly placed obstacles. "The high quality of vehicle performance that we witnessed during the site visits is truly impressive," said DARPA Director Dr. Anthony Tether. "We are thrilled with the sheer excitement about developing autonomous ground vehicles that the Grand Challenge has sparked among people from all walks of life. It was difficult to winnow the ... the competition was tough."
Tether also said: "Without question, the teams participating in the NQE this year are as good as or better than the teams fielded in Grand Challenge 2004. All have an excellent chance -- we will be held in suspense all day waiting to see whether there will be a winner."
|Grand Challenge NQE Participants|
-Autonomous Vehicle Systems
-The Golem Group / UCLA
-Indiana Robotic Navigation
-Indy Robot Racing Team
-Intelligent Vehicle Safety
-The MITRE Meteorites
-Palos Verdes High School Road Warriors
-Red Team Too
|-Stanford Racing Team|
-Virginia Tech Grand Challenge Team
-Virginia Tech Team Rocky
-Austin Robot Technology
For more information about the DARPA Grand Challenge, the official website is www.darpa.mil/GrandChallenge.
DARPA is the central research and development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The agency manages research and development projects for the DoD and pursues research in technology areas where the risk can be very high, but success provides dramatic capability advances for the DoD.