Aug 9, 2007
Georgia Tech's College of Computing today announced that the Sting Racing team competing in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Urban Challenge has passed its site visit and is one of 36 teams judged technologically capable of competing in the final round. The team's autonomous vehicle, Sting 1, successfully completed all four tests during its capabilities evaluation on June 18, taking it into the next stage in this two-year competition among leading research and technology universities in the United States.
"As a first year competitor in the Urban Challenge, qualifying for the semi-final round is a major accomplishment and testament to the passion and dedication of our team," said Dr. Henrik Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and Principal Investigator for Sting Racing. "Our robotics program at Georgia Tech is relatively new, but the progress we have shown over a short period of time has positioned us among the best in the nation."
During the visit, DARPA personnel assessed the ability of the autonomous vehicle to perform tasks and operate safely. Sting was evaluated on its ability to navigate a test course that included a four-way intersection, and moving traffic. This evaluation cover a subset of the challenges that the robotic vehicles will face on the final Urban Challenge course, including merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding obstacles.
Sting Racing, a joint collaboration between Georgia Tech's College of Computing, College of Engineering, the Georgia Tech Research Institute and SAIC, selected a Porsche Cayenne, designated Sting 1, as the base vehicle for its entry in the Urban Design Challenge. For nearly a year the members of the Sting Racing team have been working to program the robot to drive autonomously by staying on course and recognizing obstacles in its way, such as other cars.
"We have put in a lot of long hours over the past year preparing Sting 1 for this site visit - the first major trial in the Urban Grand Challenge," noted Matt Powers, a student at Georgia Tech and member of the Sting Racing team. "So passing all four tests during the site visit was extremely rewarding. We look forward now to making it all the way to the finals."
DARPA uses the site visit evaluation to select the competition's semi-finalists - the top 36 teams that will participate in the National Qualification Event (NQE), an exercise to demonstrate the safety of the vehicles on October 21-31. Earlier this afternoon, DARPA announced the other semi-finalists as well as the location of the NQE and Urban Challenge - the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, California.
The Urban Challenge is the third in a series of DARPA-sponsored competitions to foster the development of robotic ground vehicle technology without a human operator, designed for use on the battlefield. The Urban Challenge, set for November 3, 2007, will feature autonomous ground vehicles executing simulated military supply missions safely and effectively in a mock urban area. Safe operation in traffic is essential to U.S. military plans to use autonomous ground vehicles to conduct important missions and keep American personnel out of harm's way. DARPA will award $2 million, $1 million and $500,000 awards to the top three finishers that complete the course within the six-hour time limit.
The Sting 1 Porsche Cayenne is available for media demonstrations. For more information, visit www.sting-racing.org.