Friday, November 02, 2007

The "auto" in the automobile is here

November 3rd 2007, will witness the third round of DARPA Urban Challenge, which is a prize competition for driverless cars, sponsored by the Defense Advances Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the central research organization of the United States Department of Defense. The upcoming event and status of the teams participating in it had appeared in an article in November 1st 2007 issue of The Economist. Few relevant excerpt from the same:

"....(DARPA), has scaled back the traditional process of handing out large research grants and getting nothing useful in return. Instead, it has been running a series of grand prix for such vehicles. The prix in the latest, due to take place on November 3rd, is $3.5m—of which $2m will go to the vehicle best able to negotiate its way..."

"....The favourites are Stanford and Carnegie Mellon University (whose car came second in 2005). As in a more conventional motor race, the logos of their sponsors—companies such as Google, Intel and Red Bull—cover almost every centimetre of their vehicles, reflecting millions of dollars in investments...."

"....The established mixture of competitiveness and amateur fair play will surely continue (teams routinely patch up each other's wrecks after a crash). And that seems to produce for DARPA what many millions spent on more run-of-the-mill research projects has failed to generate."

The detour from traditional closely guarded military-industrial-complex research to an open, competitive is quite a stepping stone and its effectiveness demonstrated by the swift progress made by technologies showcased by the teams. Watch out for results of this event to be held tomorrow at the DARPA site.

Here is video showcasing the maneuvers of Junior, the "autonomous vehicle technology" mobile built by the event favorites, the team from Stanford University.

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