DARPA announces second robot race

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has scheduled the second autonomous vehicle race for October 2005, a follow-up to its first Grand Challenge held in March.

For this round DARPA, is offering a $2 million purse, doubling the $1 million unclaimed prize of this year's race.

The award will go to the first vehicle that makes its own way across miles of harsh desert terrain to the finish line. Of the 13 self-navigating vehicles that left the starting gate in the first round, none made it past the eight-mile marker of the 142 mile course (Click here for GCN coverage).

DARPA did not disclose the exact route of the 2005 course, though the agency has a four-year permit from the Bureau of Land Management to hold an off-road rally along several paths through the Mojave Desert between Barstow, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nev.

The Defense research and development agency also announced it will hold a participants' meeting Aug. 14 in Anaheim, Calif., for interested sponsors and groups that want to aid teams.

DARPA holds the event in hopes that researchers will develop self-navigating vehicle technologies that could be used by the military. In the first round, the major challenge most teams faced seemed to be in the realm of obstacle detection. While lidar, radar or imaging sensors provided views of the objects vehicles needed to stay clear of, software running on the onboard computers could not adequately interpret and act on the data.

'In general, sensing of the terrain evaluation looked good, but the use of the sensed information in the path adjustment looks to be a problem,' Carnegie Mellon University's Red Team concluded in its post-race analysis. The Red Team's vehicle traveled the farthest, 7.4 miles.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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