Sunday, October 09, 2005

Four Robotic Racers Cross Desert

Four robotic vehicles have finished a Pentagon-sponsored race across Nevada's Mojave desert, leading scientists to hail a technological milestone. Twenty-three self-driving racers took part in the Grand Challenge race which offered a $2m (£1.1m) prize. Vehicles had to negotiate 240km of rocky terrain. Last year none finished. The challenging competition was run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).

The vehicles were kitted out and modified with GPS (global positioning satellite), cameras, infrared sensors, computing equipment, and lasers to guide them across the tough terrain. They were not allowed to be controlled, even remotely, by humans.

"The impossible has been achieved," said Stanford University's Sebastian Thrun after its customised Volkswagen, Stanley, crossed first on Saturday. Also finishing was a converted red Hummer called H1ghlander and a Humvee named Sandstorm from Carnegie Mellon University. The race favourite, a Ford Escape Hybrid by students in Metarie, Louisiana, came in fourth.
This is one for the history books. Self driving cars were able to travel 240km over obstacles and rough terrain without any human interaction. The winner took just under 7 hours. This Grand Challenge was a genius idea from DARPA. I love it.


Update: Just found the NY Times writeup that has video and pictures and stuff. Very Cool.

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