Auburn team semifinalists for DARPA Urban Challenge

Published: Sep 13, 2007 3:33:28 PM
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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced that the SciAutonics/Auburn Engineering team will be among the semifinalists for DARPA's Urban Challenge. The semi-finalists will next compete in the Urban Challenge National Qualification Event (NQE) scheduled for October 26-31 at the urban military training facility located on the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif. DARPA selected the location because its network of urban roads simulate the type of terrain American forces operate in when deployed overseas.

"We are thrilled to have made it to this level of competition," said David Bevly, associate professor in mechanical engineering and director of Auburn's GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory (GAVLAB). "Our team members put in many, many hours, even staying up all night before our last site visit test."

The top 20 teams from the NQE will move on to the Urban Challenge final event on November 3, and compete for cash prizes worth $2 million for first, $1 million for second, and $500,000 for third place. Only 36 of the competition's original 89 teams qualified for this next phase of the competition.

Site visit tests were conducted at each team location by DARPA personnel in June. The tests included an evaluation of the vehicle's ability to navigate a test course with a four-way intersection and moving traffic. Additionally, the test was used to assess the abilities of the team's robot to merge into moving traffic, plot a course in traffic circles, negotiate busy intersections and evade obstacles.

"The depth and quality of this year's field of competitors is a testimony to how far the technology has advanced since the first Grand Challenge in 2004. DARPA thanks all the contestants for their hard work and dedication and congratulates the teams selected as semi-finalists," said Tony Tether, director of DARPA, after the completion of the site visits.

The DARPA Urban Challenge is the third in a series of competitions DARPA has held to foster the development of autonomous robotic ground vehicle technology to save lives on the battlefield. Safe operation in traffic is essential to U.S. military plans to use autonomous ground vehicles to conduct important missions. DARPA will award cash prizes to the top three finishers that complete the course within the six-hour time limit.

DARPA is the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). The Agency manages and directs basic and applied research and development projects for DoD and pursues research and technology that provide dramatic advances in support of military missions.

Photographs of the site and more information about the event are available at