DARPA Challenge: New blog follows DARPA Urban Challenge automatic guided vehicle development

“We are very close to vehicles having horse sense. That is, vehicles that refuse to run into obstacles or each other, are smart enough to avoid dangerous situations, and know their own way home,” says Paul Grayson


Traverse City , MI — “We are very close to vehicles having horse sense. That is, vehicles that refuse to run into obstacles or each other, are smart enough to avoid dangerous situations, and know their own way home,” says Paul Grayson, sponsor of the Robot Club of Traverse City, MI and team leader of the American Industrial Magic (AIM) team preparing for the DARPA Urban Challenge race to be held Nov. 3, 2007. Grayson’s new blog , hosted by Control Engineering , follows his team’s progress along with technical news and issues from the world of automated guided vehicles.

According to the Defense Applied Research Projects Agency (DARPA)%%

In testimony before the Terrorism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Armed Services Committee, DARPA director Dr. Tony Tether, said: “The next big leap will be an autonomous vehicle that can navigate and operate in traffic, a far more complex challenge for a 'robotic' driver [than off-road desert driving].”

“The DARPA Urban Challenge (DUC) really is about saving soldier's lives,” Grayson says, “and its civilian spin-off has great potential for saving lives on U.S. roads and highways.”

A 1997 Department of Transportation study found that people cause over 90% of fatal traffic accidents. Following that report, Congress ordered the U.S. Army to buy and install 400,000 driverless systems on Army vehicles "as soon as possible and before 2015." But, there were none available for the Army to buy!

In response, DARPA created the Urban Challenge (DUC) race. DARPA put demonstrating a driverless system in the form of a contest with cash prizes: $2 million for first place, $1 million for second place, $500,000 for third place. They hope that following a successful technology demonstration by one or more teams in the DUC, a flood of vendors will come forward offering a variety of driverless systems that the Army can choose from.

Blogger Grayson has a long history with guided-vehicle technology. After several close calls while studying rockets in Junior High, Grayson found he was more interested in the guidance systems than the rocket motors. “The guidance systems were less likely to explode,” he says. Since then, he has and continued his independent study of Guidance Systems, Automatic Control, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics, earning a degree in Marine Engineering, and amassing a long list of interesting assignments around the world such as at the Navy robotics laboratory in San Diego.

“With this blog,” Grayson says, “[readers] will be able to look over my shoulder while we prepare our automatic guided vehicle, look into the world of driverless vehicle building, see some of the things that I see, and puzzle over the problems of making vehicles driverless.”

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Edited by C.G. Masi charlie.masi@reedbusiness.com , senior editor, charlie.masi@reedbusiness.com

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