Update/correction: CMU did indeed win the race after all, with their Chevy Tahoe! Thanks, Aaron!
This weekend was the DARPA challenge, where teams from across the country race full-size robot cars across a city-like terrain, with an assortment of challenges. Each car from competing university teams are driverless and use visual detection systems that closely mimic the human eye — with which the cars race over 60 miles of “town”. It was dusty and clouded sensors and may have contributed to a robo-fender-bender; I have to wonder if the challenges included robotic MUNI buses ramming you into oncoming traffic, robo-bike messengers snapping off your mirrors, or if they got extra points for robot roadkill. What I do think is cool, is that one of the competing cars was a Prius, though the
winning car that crossed the finish line first — (local) Stanford team’s car — was a VW Passat (image, above). Snip:
A robotic car named Junior, programmed by Stanford computer scientists, finished slightly ahead of Boss, the robo-vehicle from Carnegie Mellon University, as half a dozen driverless vehicles made history by completing a 60-mile race over a city-like environment.
But the real winner of this third and most difficult in a series of robo-races is probably the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which sponsored the first of these events in 2004 to spur development of unmanned military vehicles. In all, 11 robotic vehicles set out on the race course Saturday morning, and while five scrubbed out for various reasons, the fact that six driverless vehicles drove a delivery route seems like a win for innovation. No car finished in the first race in 2004.
DARPA officials were huddled in a temporary building on a decommissioned Air Force base here where they had to clear 10 miles of roads to create a race course designed to simulate a town – challenging the 11 robotic vehicles that took off about 8 a.m. The participants were tasked with completing a long series of simulated deliveries in under six hours.
Given that both the finish time and adherence to traffic laws are criteria for winning, it is possible that the Carnegie Mellon team – which lost to Stanford by a hair in the 2005 competition – could emerge the final victor once the traffic-law results are compiled.