Fontana (CA) - DARPA officials have announced the starting vehicles for the 2005 Grand Challenge. On Saturday October 8, 23 vehicles will begin the approximately 150 mile race that will start and stop in Primm, Nev. Anthony Tether, director of DARPA, expects 'spectacular" footage to appear during the race.
Tether told reporters that he is "proud of the improvement" all the vehicles made over past year. "Some amazing things were done this week. 18 months ago, we were happy that they were able to just leave the chute," said Tether. Already during the first day of this year's qualifications, the organizers of the race got a pretty good idea that things would be different when Team Mojavaton's Nissan Xterra finished the qualification run on its first try. "I could have run out there and kissed them, but there was no driver to kiss," he said.
While the hardware available to all the teams is virtually the same, the software development set the teams apart apart. The vehicles do not only have to detect obstacles, but software has to provide the data to steer the vehicles around objects and bring them back on track. "It's like when you first learned how to drive. Your eyes see the obstacle, but the signal still has to go from the eyes to the brain and then to the arms and legs," explained Tether.
Two hours before the race, every team will get a CD with GPS coordinates and speed limits. Not only do the speed limits protect the vehicles from obstacles, but the Bureau of Land Management mandates that all vehicles must go below 25 miles per hours in certain areas to protect the desert tortoise.
Speaking of obstacles, the vehicles could face their ultimate nightmare as Tether hinted at a cliff somewhere along the route. "We could have some... spectacular footage," he said.
Teams selected for the Grand Challenge Race are:
Axion Racing, CajunBot, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon University, Red Team Too, Carnegie Mellon University, Red Team, CIMAR, Desert Buckeyes, Golem Group, Insight Racing, Intelligent Vehicle Safety Technology, MITRE, Mojavaton, MonsterMoto, Princeton University, SciAutonoic, Stanford, Team Cornell, Team DAD, The Gray Team, Team Ensco, Team Terramax, Virginia Tech Rocky, Virginia Tech Cliff