Photo Gallery

DARPA Grand Challenge

March, 2004

In March 2004, I had the good fortune of attending Defense Department's first autonomous (self-driving) vehicle race. The U.S. Defense Department wanted vehicles that could drive themselves for long distances, so it sponsored a race to spur people into developing new self-navigation technologies. The race started in Barstow, Calif--see my story at Government Computer News. I also snapped some photos....

DARPA DARPA’s robot race got underway in the pre-dawn hours. Starting chutes were fashioned from concrete bunkers. Once an official waved a green flag, the vehicle had 30 seconds to get out the starting gate...

DARPA Grand Challenge Virginia Tech’s vehicle bolts out of the starting gate, followed closely by the control vehicle, which was manned by a DARPA official to watch the autonomous vehicle and stop it if got into a dangerous situation:

DARPA Grand Challenge Virginia Tech’s vehicle being driven off the course, after its brakes locked up, disqualifying it from competition.

DARPA Grand Challenge CanjunBot runs itself into a fence, and tries to hop over a bush

DARPA Grand Challenge Team ENSCO’s vehicle came to a spectacular end, after bolting from the starting gate and flipping over in some rough terrain.

DARPA Grand Challenge University of Florida’s Navigator trucks off down the road.

DARPA Grand Challenge CalTech team leader Richard Warren, his team’s vehicle off in the distance, beyond his help

DARPA Grand Challenge Team CalTech’s vehicle.

DARPA Grand Challenge No steering wheel needed for CalTech truck.

DARPA Grand Challenge CalTech’s vehicle was run by a team of personal computers, networked together.

DARPA Grand Challenge Team TerraMax’s 5-ton truck tools down the road, sans driver.

DARPA Grand Challenge The Blue Team’s self-driving motorcycle proved to be a limited success. Here it is disabled, a few feet from the starting gate.

DARPA Grand Challenge Here is some of the terrain these vehicles needed to navigate through

DARPA Grand Challenge SciAutonics’ vehicle traveled almost a mile before veering off-route

DARPA Grand Challenge Warner Williams, who headed up Team Phantasm. Williams’ team had to forfeit in the last day of qualifications. A defective radar burned fried his vehicle’s computer in the process. Unfortunately, his programmer did not make a backup of the control program for the vehicle

DARPA Grand Challenge The Golem Team’s dark house vehicle, a Ford F-150, which defied expectations by traveling over 5 miles after a weak qualification

DARPA Grand Challenge Many of the vehicles used a commercial light detection and ranging, or Lidar, units, to find their way along the route

DARPA Grand Challenge A few teams used hardened laptops for vehicle control. SciAutonics’ Rascal used an Itronix GoBook

DARPA Grand Challenge Team CajunBot takes their vehicle out for a joyride after the race