Carnegie Mellon Team Named Semifinalist in DARPA Urban Challenge
Tartan Racing Among 36 Teams Invited to National Qualification Event in October
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing team is one of 36 contenders that advanced today toward a spot in the DARPA Urban Challenge, a $2 million robotic vehicle race that will take place Nov. 3 at an urban military training facility in Victorville, Calif.
Tartan Racing's self-driving Chevy Tahoe, "Boss," must now compete for one of 20 positions in the starting lineup at the National Qualification Event (NQE) Oct. 26–31, which will also be at the Victorville training facility on the former George Air Force Base. The slate of semifinalists and the venues for the competition were announced today by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency officials at the agency's annual technical symposium in Anaheim, Calif. It marked the latest narrowing of the field, which began with 89 teams last fall, then dropped to 53 teams this spring and now stands at 36.
"The teams that advanced to the qualifiers are highly capable; the semifinalists are strong," said William L. "Red" Whittaker, Tartan Racing team leader and a University Professor in Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. "Today's cut was heartbreaking for those who invested a year and missed the mark. Today's announcement raised the stakes for Tartan Racing."
Though just 82 days remain before the NQE, Tartan Racing Director of Technology Chris Urmson said the team's two vehicles have already logged hundreds of test miles and are becoming more adept at driving by the day. "Boss today can handle maneuvers at 30 miles an hour that it performed at 15 miles an hour back in June," Urmson said. "It can park itself and it can yield at intersections, not just stop."
Boss is equipped with lasers, radars and cameras to sense roads and other cars, and has 10 computers and 200,000 lines of software behind the wheel. Though not yet capable of all the driving behaviors it will need to win the Nov. 3 race, "it's getting closer," Urmson said. "We will be testing our vehicle intensely in increasingly difficult traffic, as we put finishing touches on the algorithms that drive Boss." Two identical versions of Boss have been developed to enable extra testing and road experience, though under DARPA rules only one will compete in the Urban Challenge.
The Urban Challenge is a competitive rally for autonomous cars, with prizes of $2 million, $1 million and $500,000 for the top three finishers that complete the course within a six-hour time limit. Vehicles have to navigate, park and deal with traffic on a 60-mile suburban course. They must operate without human guidance and rely only on sensors and computers. They must obey traffic laws, merge into moving traffic, avoid obstacles and negotiate intersections.
"Technology from the Urban Challenge is destined to change the driving experience," Whittaker said. Tartan Racing is committed to applying those technologies to improve automotive safety and convenience, and to the broader future of robotics. Sponsors of the team include General Motors, Caterpillar, Continental AG, Intel, Google, Applanix, TeleAtlas, NetApp, Vector CANTech, Ibeo, Mobileye, HP, CarSim, CleanPower Resources, M/A-COM and McCabe Software. The team includes members from both the university and the sponsor organizations.
For more on Tartan Racing, see www.tartanracing.org. For more on the Urban Challenge, visit www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge.