“Self driven” has just acquired a whole new meaning. The DARPA grand challenge is a race for driverless cars organized by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. None of the cars in the 2004 race made it to the finish line, but in 2005 the Stanford Racing Team’s Volkswagen Touareg named “Stanley” completed 212 km in less than 7 hours. (Off road terrain)
It was followed minutes later by Carnegie Mellon’s “Sandstorm”.
The course included three narrow tunnels, more than a hundred sharp turns and a winding mountain pass with drops on either side.
Guess what’s planned for 2007? A race through a city! A good 96 km urban course, with 6 hours to cross the finish line. I’m certain the competitors will make much better drivers than the average driver we encounter on our way to work.
Here are the “basic rules” for the 2007 Challenge:
- Vehicle must be stock or have a documented safety record.
- Vehicle must obey the California state driving laws.
- Vehicle must be entirely autonomous, using only GPS and the information it detects with its sensors.
- DARPA will provide the route network 24 hours before the race starts.
- Vehicles will complete the route by driving between specified checkpoints.
- DARPA will provide a file detailing the order the checkpoints must be driven to 5 minutes before the race start.
- Vehicles may “stop and stare” for at most 10 seconds.
- Vehicles must operate in rain and fog, with GPS blocked.
- Vehicles must avoid collision with vehicles and other objects such as carts, bicycles, traffic barrels, and objects in the environment such as utility poles.
- Vehicles must be able to operate in parking areas and perform U-turns as required by the situation.
So when do we get to ride around in these babies? GM plans to launch a self-driven Opel Vectra in 2008. The DX version comes with Turbo Boost. I wonder if they’ll hardwire the three laws of robotics in it…
Can you imagine autos without auto drivers? No excuses like “it’s uphill” or “I won’t get a return fare” or “It’s raining”. Just select a location on it’s little GPS map, swipe your card and you’re good to go.
This whole thing reminds me of Stephen King’s short story “Trucks“. By the way, the Knight Rider movie is scheduled for 2008, with “The Hoff” playing only a minor role (thankfully) and Ben Afflek playing Michael Knight. Check out the awesome teaser poster below, and more about the future KITT on Gizmodo.
A little nostalgia:
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