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Autonomous Vehicles

DARPA Grand Challenge III – the urban UGV

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.  Read More

Crusher - futuristic Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle

May 2, 2006 Safeguarding the soldier is the key aim of the Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle – giving soldiers enhanced stand-off capability was the reason DARPA funded the Grand Challenge and backed up again two years later with the second challenge and is now holding the challenge in an urban area – such contests dramatically accelerated research into autonomous navigation and identified the most capable people to for the military to work with. The National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) is part of the Robotics Institute in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, unveiled Crusher last week. Carnegie Mellon vehicles finished a close second and third in the Grand Challenge though everyone knew they were at the bleeding edge of robotics knowledge, the Challenge just confirming it. Crusher demonstrates just what we can expect to see on the battlefield a decade from now. In what might well be seen as an offspring of the Grand Challenge, “Crusher” is a new breed of UGV – an NREC-designed, six-wheeled, all-wheel drive, hybrid electric, skid-steered, unmanned ground vehicle. The bohemoth weighs 14,000 pounds fully fueled, and is designed to carry a 3,000-pound payload – at this 17,000 pound total weight, two Crusher vehicles can be carried by a single C-130H aircraft and dropped into any region in the world. Once on the ground, Crusher can carry up to 8,000 pounds of payload without compromising its mobility – read that as 8000 pounds of smart stuff – any combination of cargo, armour, armaments, or surveillance equipment. Crusher is also designed to withstand extreme terrain, with the ability to take in its stride regular impacts with trees, boulders, fences, tree stumps and ditches at high speed. With six wheel independent drive, Crusher can go up and over almost anything, and if in the process it should get upside down, it moves its wheels to the other side of the vehicle and starts all over again. Crusher's hybrid electric system is silent, using a high-performance SAFT-built lithium ion battery module which delivers power to the six, in-wheel UQM traction motors located in the hub drive system of each wheel. Much, much, more … interesting stuff!  Read More

Stanford University wins DARPA Grand Challenge race for robots - five complete course

The DARPA Grand Challenge race for autonomous robotic vehicles has been run and won, with five robots completing the 132 mile course and the first four all finishing within minutes of each other. Read on for a full report from Gizmag’s Robotics reporter, Dan Christian with images and assistance from Eric Zbinden.  Read More

Field finalised for DARPA Grand Challenge

October 6, 2005 The DARPA Grand Challenge National Qualification Event (NQE) Is finished and 23 robotic vehicles have been selected to compete in the Grand Challenge final event this coming Saturday, October 8, in the Mojave Desert near Primm, Nevada. The finalists will traverse a rugged desert course that features lakebeds, narrow desert roads, tight turns, tunnels, gateways and treacherous mountain passes. The actual course will not be revealed to teams until two hours before the event begins at approximately 6:30 a.m. (PDT). The team whose vehicle traverses the entire course the fastest in under ten hours will win US $2 million. Dan Christian attended the NQE and filed this report. Dan will also be reporting for Gizmag from what promises to be one of the most significant automotive races in history.  Read More

DARPA GRAND CHALLENGE 2005: 40 Teams through to next round

June 8, 2005 The DARPA Grand Challenge 2005 autonomous ground vehicle competition was narrowed down to 40 teams yesterday – the teams which will compete from September 27 to October 5 to be one of the final 20 teams to compete in the second “race of the century” on October 8, 2005. The DARPA Grand Challenge is a race for fully autonomous vehicles – no drivers, no human assistance, no remote control. From the point that the vehicles leave the starting gate on October 8, they will be on their own an vehicles must travel approximately 150 miles over rugged desert roads using only onboard sensors and navigation equipment to find and follow the route and avoid obstacles. See our race report from the first race or read on for details of the second race and contestants.  Read More

DARPA Grand Challenge 2004 autonomous ground vehicle competition

March 13, 2004 will go down as one of the most significant dates in technological history – the first running of the DARPA Grand Challenge. As in the first automobile race 110 years earlier, a significant “Grand Prix” of US$1 MILLION was posted, though the competitors knew they were really competing for a place in history and many spent multiples of that amount just preparing for the race. The 142 mile course of rugged desert terrain from Barstow (near Los Angeles) to Primm (near Las Vegas) had to be traversed within ten hours by fully autonomous vehicles – no drivers, no human assistance, no remote control. Significantly, the race was not won, and the mass media coverage bordered on mockery.  Read More

Autonomous Motorcycle to contest DARPA Grand Challenge

The DARPA Grand Challenge was the first race for autonomous robots from LA to Las Vegas on March 13, 2004 with a US$1 million prize. The race was be contested by 24 cars and one autonomous two-wheeler. This interview was conducted with the Team leader of the Ghostrider Robot Team, Anthony Levandowski just prior to the event.  Read More

DARPA Schedules 2nd Autonomous Robotic Ground Vehicles Event

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense has announced that it will hold a second Grand Challenge for Autonomous Robotic Ground Vehicles on October 8, 2005.  Read More

One of the most interesting entries in the recent DARPA GRAND CHALLENGE was an autonomous motorcycle entered by the GhostRider Robot team, headed by 23 year old Anthony Levandowski and is Berkeley University’s official entry. Levandowski, is a serial entrepreneur at just 23 years of age and has invested a lot of his own money in getting the project up. We spoke with Anthony prior to the event and subsequent to the event to see what he’d learned.  Read More

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