DARPA Urban Challenge: Field finalized for 2007 robotic vehicle race


System Integration, Process Control

The first vehicles line up at the starting gate for the beginning of a previous DARPA Challenge.

Arlington, VA —Open enrollment has increased the field for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge to 89 teams. The 'Track B' list drew 78 additions to the robotic vehicle race, which will be held Nov. 3, 2007, at an as-yet undisclosed location in the Western United States. The third Grand Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, charges enthusiasts from around the world to develop autonomous vehicle technology and makes extensive use of sensors and controls. Operation of the vehicles in the Urban Challenge will test the ability of robots to operate safely and effectively in populated areas.

Track B participants join the 11 Track A teams, announced earlier and which were selected from proposals submitted to DARPA. Track A teams will receive up to $1 million in technology development funds. Track B teams receive no funds, but compete equally with Track A teams to qualify for the final event. The vehicles will attempt to complete a 60-mile mock urban course through traffic in less than six hours, operating under their own computer-based control. To succeed, vehicles must obey traffic laws while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles.

'The first two Grand Challenges showed that tackling a formidable challenge is a reward in itself,' said Dr. Tony Tether, DARPA director. 'The outstanding response to Track B tells me there is great interest in taking on the very difficult technical challenge of developing unmanned ground vehicles that can operate safely in urban areas.'

Among the participants are representatives from research universities and engineering schools, automobile manufacturers and suppliers, and defense contactors from a variety of countries, including Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, New Zealand, and Mexico. 'The depth and the quality of the field of competitors is a testimony to how far the technology has advanced since the first Grand Challenge in 2004,' said Dr. Norman Whitaker, DARPA's Urban Challenge program manager. 'The Urban Challenge will present a highly complex and demanding trial that will truly put this field of robotic vehicles to the test.'

Click here to find out more on the DARPA Grand Challenge Website.

Click here to read 'Big predictions for robotic DARPA Challenge racers,' an article from Control Engineering about the 2005 event.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jeanine Katzel , senior editor

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