DARPA Unveils “Urban Challenge” for Robotic Vehicles
Fresh off the success of the DARPA Grand Challenge that saw several robotic vehicles successfully navigate a 131.2 mile road course, DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — recently announced another challenge, now based in an urban environment.
From the DARPA news release:
“Grand Challenge 2005 proved that autonomous ground vehicles can travel significant distances and reach their destination, just as you or I would drive from one city to the next,” said DARPA Director Dr. Tony Tether. “After the success of this event, we believe the robotics community is ready to tackle vehicle operation inside city limits.”
Scheduled to take place on November 7th, 2007, the Urban Challenge will offer prizes to the top three vehicles that succesfully complete a 60-mile urban course in less than six hours. The course will be filled with moving vehicle traffic, real-world traffic signs and signals and other pesky impediments to robotic driving.
One hopes that DARPA and Co. will factor in the possibility of malfunctions and the like: having a 16-ton robotic truck (like the successful TerraMax, pictured above) smash through the local Starbucks thanks to a sensor glitch or Windows blue screen may not generate the best PR.
In all seriousness, the advances made in robotic control of vehicles over the last few years has been simply amazing. Head over to the DARPA site for more information on previous challenges and the latest on the new one. – [Jeff James]