May 3, 2006 We’re very excited this week about the prospects for Unmanned Ground Vehicles given the unveiling of Crusher and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announcing plans to hold its third Grand Challenge competition on November 3, 2007. The DARPA Urban Challenge will feature autonomous ground vehicles executing simulated military supply missions safely and effectively in a mock urban area. Safe operation in traffic is essential to U.S. military plans to use autonomous ground vehicles to conduct important missions. So rapidly have UGVs developed in the last few years thanks to Grand Challenges I & II, we suddenly see the prospect of unmanned vehicles being used in civilian occupations – a driver that never sleeps, obeys all the laws, costs a fraction of a human being’s time. Delivery robots make sense and within a few years our bet is that the technology will be in place. The winner gets far more than just US$2 million, as the leading contenders have found in previous events – the world will beat a path to your door if you can win Grand Challenge III. To win, you’ll need to have your UGV complete a 60-mile course through urban traffic under six hours. The UGV will need to be able to merge with traffic, read traffic signs, navigate roundabouts, busy intersections, avoid running over errant pedestrians, avoid obstacles – just like a normal automobile driver.
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