Anaheim (CA) – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected 36 teams for the next phase in the upcoming autonomous vehicle Urban Challenge race. Each team had to endure an entire day of scrutiny by government officials to see if their cars could safely drive a semi-urban course, complete with parked and moving cars.
BOSS Tartan Racing – site visit video (via YouTube)
The teams hail mostly from universities like Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, but some are from private companies. The first team to finish the six hour course will get $2 million while the second and third place winners will get $1 million and $500 thousand respectively.
Using a variety of sensors like RADAR, spinning lasers and ultrasound, the vehicles must dodge obstacles while obeying California traffic laws, signs and signals. The technological advances and techniques gleaned from this contest will first be applied to military vehicles, but could eventually reach civilian cars.
Dr. Tony Tether, the head of DARPA, said, “The robotic vehicles will conduct simulated military supply missions at the site. This adds many of the elements these vehicles would face in operational environments.” He added that the cars must drive as well as, “someone with a California Driver’s License.”
Autonomous vehicles could allow drivers to safely use their cell phones or computers while the computers temporally take over the driving. Cars could also be programmed to safely travel closer together and eliminate traffic collisions and congestion a thing of the past.
Stanford site visit video (via YouTube)
Several of the teams that finished the previous DARPA Grand Challenge are making a return visit for this contest. Grand Challenge winners Stanford will be back, along with Team Grey from Louisiana and Carnegie Mellon University.
The teams will now head to the semi-final qualification round to be held October 26th to 31st at the old George Air Force base in Victorville California. The final will be in the same place on November 3rd.