The DARPA Grand Challenge
Posted by scott at March 17, 2003 08:45 AM
Slashdot posted a note about the latest, greatest scientific contest, the DARPA grand challenge. The goal is to get a vehicle to drive autonomously across a 250 mile course in and around Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
I'll bet you a quarter it takes exactly 20 minutes for some liberal left-wing-nut to start crowing about how DARPA is part of the military, and we're all just being sheep manipulated into figuring out how to help the army prosecute "mass genocide". Bullsh*t. Getting a robot car to drive all over the place is just plain cool.
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THIS IS A RACE TO THE FUTURE!
SciAutonics LLC and Elbit Systems Ltd. to partner with their second entry in the DARPA Grand Challenge - An Autonomous Robotic Ground Vehicle Challenge!
“No Drivers Wanted”
Thousand Oaks, CA -The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced in the summer of 2002 that it wants to see an acceleration of development in autonomous ground vehicle technology. To encourage innovative thinking, DARPA has issued what has been aptly named the Grand Challenge, an autonomous robotic ground vehicle race to take place on Saturday, March 13, 2004. DARPA has called for expanded technological capability in ground vehicles as the next logical step for a stronger mechanism of defense, and a team of local engineers and scientists has risen to meet the chal-lenge.
The Grand Challenge involves a course of on-road and off-road terrain that must be completed in less than ten hours to win. The route will be announced only two hours before the race and the winning entry will be awarded a prize of one million dollars. For more information on the race itself, go to www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge.
The Thousand Oaks based SciAutonics LLC and internationally known Israeli company Elbit Sys-tems Ltd. have now formed a collaboration to enter the DARPA Grand Challenge. Two major sponsors also coming on board are ESRI of Redlands CA, known for their GIS technology worldwide and Air-borne- 1, a top aerial LiDAR mapping company based in El Segundo, CA. SciAutonics and Elbit Systems will now be at the forefront of what promises to be a significant technical achievement in the area of autonomous ground vehicles.
How realistic is DARPA’s challenge and how soon can this kind of technological advancement actually be made? Although the task of building and equipping a vehicle to drive itself through incredibly rough terrain at an average speed of 25 mph is daunting at best, SciAutonics and their new (second) team have the experts in the key critical areas necessary to achieve something of this magnitude. It is only with the right combination of people and resources that progress can and will be made. With a diverse mix of engi-neers, scientists and business professionals, all contributing their talents and skills, this new partnership is definitely on its way.
SciAutonics and Elbit Systems are expected to play a major role in the development of this groundbreaking technology that holds much promise for the future of US defense. In addition, vehicles with the ability to drive autonomously may also revolutionize the way transportation is accomplished by the common citizen. This new technology, for example, will ensure a safer environment by enhancing control and collision prevention.
Reinhold Behringer, SciAutonics Head Scientist thinks: "In a day and age where people are more mobile than ever before, even in the daily commute to work, the implications of this technology are tre-mendous. Can you envision your vehicle dropping you off at work? Taking the kids from school to soccer practice and driving without any distractions. Most of us could sleep on the way to work and have the car wake us up when we arrive.”
Here is a little information about the Elbit Systems-SciAutonics Team:
Team Leader: Paul Gunthner
Organization: Elbit Systems Ltd. and SciAutonics LLC
City and State: Thousand Oaks, CA
Primary Sponsors: Elbit Systems, SciAutonics, Rockwell Scientific Company, Infinite Fabrication, ESRI, Airborne-1, Rockwell Collins and Rockwell Automation (about a dozen addi-tional sponsors are also contributing to the success of the team to a somewhat smaller extent).
We asked Team leader Paul Gunthner about the team, and the future of autonomous vehicles:
“The Elbit Systems-SciAutonics vehicle, Avidor-2004 (Autonomous Vehicle In Deserts & On Roads) is based on an off road vehicle ("Dune Buggy") produced by Tomcar, Ltd. Of Israel. The Tomcar is tough and proven! We see it as one of the most durable Darpa Grand Challenge vehicles! The Tomcar has been fully and extensively modified. Many additional features include operating ac-tuators and servos for shifting, steering, acceleration and braking. Our vehicle team drivers can manually override the vehicle at anytime for safety and testing.
The autonomous operation of Avidor-2004 is based on complete ground and aerial mapping using advanced GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technology for finding the optimal and safe route in the rough terrain and desert environment while adapting to the terrain characteristics. Three-level hierarchical control system implements actuators control, auto-driver control and pre-cise navigation route following control. For this purpose we use DGPS and INS systems. We will also be sharing technology with the SciAutonics I Team. This will enable both teams to have a multi lay-ered suite of sensors including video, LIDAR, ultrasound, and RADAR for obstacle detection and road identification. By weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each sensor, the data from the various sensors are optimally fused so as the most reliable information is obtained. The combined technology gives both teams several layers of redundancy by independent backup systems. Our specially developed "behavioral" software incorporated in the Main or Mission Computer (MC), which is at the heart of the autonomous vehicle, will detect and respond to various types of obsta-cles and will make decisions and course corrections in real time as necessary.
We see our new superior software as the key to making a successful run at the DARPA Grand Challenge Race. The combination of Elbit Systems and SciAutonics is a great advancement in pro-ducing new quality autonomous vehicle technology. We plan to use our resources and talent not only for the Grand Challenge Race, but also for planning our company’s solid future: Manufacturing Autonomous vehicles!”
For More information contact: