Stanford's Stanley wins DARPA Grand Challenge 2005

Stanford's Stanley was the first vehicle to cross the finish line early afternoon on Saturday, followed by Carnegie Mellon and the Gray Team. While Terramax also conquered the race on Sunday, DARPA announced Stanford as the winner and presented a $2 million cash prize. Read TG Daily's up-to-the-minute coverage of the race and Stanford's way to victory.

In a 5 AM press conference on Saturday, DARPA officials announced the Grand Challenge course and it appears to be a "Grand Challenge" for all the teams. The 131.6 mile course will be entirely in Nevada, starting and stopping in Primm.

During much of the course, the vehicles will follow the I-15 freeway, a common route for travelers driving from Southern California to Las Vegas. At other points, the course will veer off into the salt flats and mountain passes. According to DARPA officials, the "very narrow" course will have overhanging brush, three tunnels, berms, and tank traps - All designed to knock the robotic vehicles out of the race.

In the night before, the teams faced pre-race jitters and last minute technical difficulties. The Gray Team was busy fixing their brake wire which mysteriously broke during the day. A team member said, "It's pretty bad wire to break, since we are a drive-by-wire vehicle after all." Team Cornell blew a generator in their vehicle and replaced it.

We saw Caltech team members scouring the bottom of their vehicle, doing last minute checks on their robot, at 9:30 PM. They probably didn't get much sleep as many of the teams had to wake up before 4 AM to input the course coordinates into their computers.

The first vehicle will leave the starting chute at 6:30 AM. Stay tuned for more updates.

Update 7:51 AM PST

Carnegie Mellon's H1lander already has travelled 37 miles, with Stanford and Sandstorm close behind. The course makes the vehicles drive out several miles and then double back to make a pass by the grandstands. The two Carnegie Mellon cars and Stanford's Touareg have performed flawlessly so far.

When passing by, Stanford's Stanley automatically turned off its headlights and then gunned the engine, kicking up dust along the way.

Update 7:59 AM PST

According to DARPA officials, the website has received several million hits in the past day. The website has an updated display of all the robots positions.

Update 8:10 AM PST

H1lander has driven 43 miles. Axion Racing was passed by Team DAD and IVST.

Update 8:16 AM PST

Cornell's Spider has been eliminated. According to sources, it hit a bridge at 9 miles.

Update 8:51 AM PST

Several teams are now out of the race. Cornell, MonsterMoto, Team DAD, Princeton and Golem Group

H1lander is 1/3 through the course.

Terramax is going into the chute.

Update 9:08 AM PST

We were just told by DARPA that Team DAD was disabled because it's spinning laser sensor stopped spinning. The sensor is the vehicle's primary guidance system.

Update 9:16 AM PST

According to DARPA, Terramax is five minutes from entering the race. We snapped the above pic three mins ago.

There have been airplane skywriters above the starting area, spelling out "Go Red". The pilot seems a bit drunk and seriously messed up the "E".

Update 9:25 AM PST

Red Team Too is running a sustained 25 mph and is now two miles away from a remote media site.

Terramax has left the chute. Caltech's Alice is coming back and will pass the grandstands shortly. Stanford and Sandstorm are 1/3 the way through the course and Stanford is at 51 miles travelling 10 mph. Sandstorm now approaching the 50 mile mark.

Update 9:45 AM PST

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Weiss)

Caltech's Alice has crashed into a cement k-rail at a berm. It plowed through the cement wall, knocked it over and then started heading up the berm towards reporters and cameramen. Fearless cameramen kept shooting, even though it was only a few feet away. The bot was disabled and the media was moved away.

Update 9:53 AM PST

Red Team Too is through the first tunnel. Terramax and the Gray Team are still out there. The Gray Team's vehicle has stopped several times, one time for about three minutes, but eventually continues on.

Update 10:08 AM PST

The Gray Team has passed Intelligent Vehicle Safety Technology's vehicle which had started two hours before. The recovery crew is trying to get Caltech's Alice on a wrecker platform and Terramax is paused just 100 yards away because the road is too narrow for the huge Terramax vehicle to pass.

Update 10:25 AM PST

SciAutonics was disabled at 5.9 miles because it developed some software problems. Red Team Too is through the 2nd tunnel which is 155 feet long.

Update 10:35 AM PST

Stanford is through the 2nd tunnel. While the teams are doing well, the last 15 miles of the course is the "bot killer" portion. DARPA officials are giddy about the progress made so far and there is a growing feeling in the press tent that a vehicle will not only win the Grand Challenge, but will crush the 10 hour time.

Update 10:42 AM PST

Red Team is through the 2nd tunnel. MITRE Meteor has been disabled.

Update 11:16 AM PST

Stanford is going fast and is trying to pass Red Team. DARPA officials are telling me that there is no room to pass and they had to pause Stanford a few times, so it doesn't run into the back of Red Team's H1lander.

Update 11:36 AM

Red Team Too is at 87.5 miles with Stanley right behind at 87 miles. Red Team is at 85 miles.

Update 11:46 AM

Stanford is one-fifth of a mile behind H1lander.

Update 12:14 PM

H1lander (CMU) and Stanley (Stanford)passed near the grandstands a few minutes ago. Stanley was right on the tail of H1lander and both are now on their final leg of the course.

The vehicles for Virginia Tech GC Team and Desert Buckeyes have been disabled.

Update 12:24 PM

Stanford's Stanley has just passed H1lander

Mojavaton has been disabled at 23.5 miles.

Update 12:30 PM

Team ENSCO blew a tire and is now disabled. It's sitting right next to the I-15 freeway, in view of passing cars.

Dr. Tether is briefing the press and says the top three vehicles (the two CMU cars and Stanford) only have to get through Beer Bottle Pass to claim the prize. There is a 1000 foot drop and a cliff. Dr. Thether emphasizes that his human drivers don't like to drive through the pass. There is a cameraman stationed there, giving live coverage... It could be an exciting time.

Update 12:42 PM

Axion Racing is disabled and the bot is in the dirt spinning its wheels.

Intelligent Vehicle Safety Technologies has been disabled at 14 miles.

Update 12:59 PM

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Weiss)

Here is how close Alice came to the media. It looks to be less than 10 feet.

Update 1:09 PM

Sandstorm is close to passing H1lander. The DARPA helicopter is low on fuel (30 mins left) and there is about an hour left in the race. Officials are trying to decide whether aerial footage or helicopter safety is more important.

Update 1:33 PM

Stanford is through most of the Beer Bottle Pass. The end is in sight and the bot is only about 6 miles away.

Update 1:51 PM

Stanford's Stanley has completed the course! Sandstorm and H1lander are through the pass.

After being doused with ice water, Stanford team leaders are hoisted up for pictures.

The other two Carnegie Mellon bots have finished. Dr. Tether says, "The Grand Challenge has been conquered." He also says that they will let Terramax run, regardless on whether it can finish in ten hours or not.

It will take about two hours to determine the final winner. To determine the actual time in motion, the pause times must be subtracted from the vehicle's race time.

Update 2:33 PM

The Gray Team, Terramax and Insight Racing are still on the course. We are impressed with the Gray Team because they had brake problems the night before. In addition, 75 percent of their team is homeless because of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Update 3:45 PM

We are still biting our nails here. DARPA is still crunching the numbers to find out who won. One concern brought up by the teams is that when you are paused for 20 seconds, you still lose time (even after the 20 seconds are subtracted from the race time). Vehicles that were moving at a good clip now have to waste time accelerating back up to speed.

We now know that Terramax was paused for a while when the chase vehicle broke down.

Update 4:04 PM

There will be a press briefing at 5:00 PM. Since the race is still in underway, there will be no closing ceremony today. In addition, DARPA officials say that their website is going "bonkers" and you should not trust any information on it.

Update 4:26 PM

DARPA officials say that there is a winner, but are adamant that they don't know who it is. They are also say that Terramax could still win because the vehicle was paused for so long. They had to wait for Caltech's vehicle to be removed from the course, plus they were paused because their chase vehicle broke down

Update 5:34 PM

The press conference has just finished. In about 30 minutes, Team Gray and Terramax will be stopped overnight. Dr. Tether says that fuel will be added so the vehicles will start with a full tank in the morning. It's up to the team to whether they want to leave their vehicles with the engine idling or with the motor off.

The two Carnegie Mellon teams and Stanford finished very close to each other. DARPA is being careful and is examining the internal computer data from the vehicles. Dr. Tether says the data format is not in user friendly format and they can't just run a routine or script to sort it out.

Apparently the vehicle data is being correlated to data kept by the chase vehicle driver.

Update 5:59 PM

The excitement continues, a member of the Gray Team said that their vehicle will continue into the darkness. Since their vehicle doesn't depend on visible light, they feel confident that their bot can finish. "Considering all that we've been through, with the hurricanes and everything, the bot has exceeded our expectations. We don't need any light... and we don't need a driver either," the team member said.

The vehicle is currently on the final run, headed towards Beer Bottle Pass.

Update 6:11 PM

Team Gray is through Beer Bottle Pass and headed to the finish line.

Update 6:37 PM

(Gray Team members celebrate as their vehicle crosses the finish line)

Gray Team has crossed the finish line. Terramax has been paused for the night at mile 83.

Update 7:16 PM

To clear up some confusion, the run and pause times are stored in an "E-Stop" box. To the Stanford team members, the E-Stop is a mysterious thing. The team said, "We believe it logs GPS waypoints and the amount of time in run and pause modes, but we are speculating." Every team is lent and must install the shoebox-sized $30,000 E-Stop. The box maintains an active link with the chase vehicle and has run, pause and disable modes. If the link is broken, the vehicle automatically comes to a stop - This is why the chase vehicle has to always trail close to the bot.

There are two antennas, one for RF and the other is for GPS. The team doesn't know if the antennas transmit or just receive data. "We don't understand the interface, we can't open it and we can't download the data," said the team.

Update 7:34 PM

Ok, we are done for the night. The only vehicle left is Terramax and DARPA will start the bot around 6:40 AM PST. Currently, the vehicle is paused in place at mile 83.

Update 10:41 AM Sunday Oct 9

Awards Ceremony at 11:00 AM. Terramax is moving fast (15 mph) and is less than 2 miles away from Beer Bottle Pass. This is going to be interesting because CMU's H1lander/Sandstorm and Stanford's Stanley drove VERY slow through the pass. There wasn't much space for normal vehicles... I hope the huge Terramax vehicle survives the pass.

Update 11:00 AM

The awards ceremony has been postponed because Terramax has entered the pass. Some of the press (myself included) are glued to the live feed, which focuses on the first major bend.

Update 11:21 AM

Terramax has made it through Beer Bottle Pass and is now headed home. The finish line is less than six miles away.

In the spectator tent, about 1000 people gathered to watch the big screens. Terramax peeked around the first corner to the cheers of the crowd. Then it started backing up.. something that would be repeated often in the Pass.

At one point, Terramax almost fell off the cliff when it backed up. The back left tire was almost off the left edge of the mountain!

Update 12:46 PM

(TerraMax speeds to the finish)

The nimble giant, Terramax, finished as people were gathering at the finish line. Dr. Tether walked up on the stage and told the teams to come up for the awards ceremony. Then, Terramax appeared on the horizon... and it was running hot and kicking up dust. "Terramax is going 38 mph and I'll talk to you later," said Dr. Tether as he quickly left the stage.

(Stanford celebrates)

After Terramax finished, DARPA officials gave medals to all the winners. He also gave one medal to each robot. Finally, Stanford was presented with a large $2 million dollar check.

Update 1:08 PM

In an impromptu press conference in the media tent, Dr. Tether said, "The chances of another race next year is virtually small." When asked by a reporter about how much it would cost to duplicate the same results with government contractors, Tether said, "It would probably cost 150 to 200 million."

Dr. Tether told the Stanford team that they have an open invitation to come work for DARPA for a salary of $200,000 per year. Stanford team leader, Sebastian Thrun, joked: "Stanford pays much less."