Lotus Elise to Join DARPA Urban Challenge
Sponsored by the US Department of Defense via the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge event featured a number of robotic vehicles autonomously navigating a 131.2 mile road course. A modified Volkswagen Touareg (affectionately dubbed “Stanley“) won the 2005 competition, followed by a few other similarly rugged and imposing vehicles. DARPA’s goal with the Grand Challenge was to kickstart the development of autonomous robotic vehicles for potential future military applications, a goal which it readily accomplished.
To up the ante once again, DARPA has commissioned another challenge, now based in an urban environment. Scheduled to take place on November 7th, 2007, the Urban Challenge will offer prizes to the top three vehicles that successfully 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.
While this contest may once again be dominated by entries based on SUVs, trucks and other hulking vehicles (like the massive TerraMax), North Carolina State University would like to be the exception to the rule.
After fielding an entry based on a Chevrolet Suburban in the 2005 event, NC State has teamed with Insight Technologies Inc., the Advanced Vehicle Research Center (AVRC) and Lotus Engineering to field an Urban Challenge entry based on the superlative Lotus Elise sports car.
The engineering team will obviously be busy squeezing all of the sensors, computers, GPS hardware and other robot bits into the comparatively tiny Elise over the next few months, as the Elise features an order of magnitude less interior volume than a Suburban. That said, NC State and company are sure to be building the most head-turning entrant in an admittedly crowded field.
(Source: NC State) – [Jeff James]
photos: © Group Lotus PLC