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’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...
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:
Virginia Tech’s vehicle being driven off the course, after its brakes locked up, disqualifying it from competition.
CanjunBot runs itself into a fence, and tries to hop over a bush
Team ENSCO’s vehicle came to a spectacular end, after bolting from the starting gate and flipping over in some rough terrain.
University of Florida’s Navigator trucks off down the road.
CalTech team leader Richard Warren, his team’s vehicle off in the distance, beyond his help
Team CalTech’s vehicle.
No steering wheel needed for CalTech truck.
CalTech’s vehicle was run by a team of personal computers, networked together.
Team TerraMax’s 5-ton truck tools down the road, sans driver.
The Blue Team’s self-driving motorcycle proved to be a limited success. Here it is disabled, a few feet from the starting gate.
Here is some of the terrain these vehicles needed to navigate through
SciAutonics’ vehicle traveled almost a mile before veering off-route
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
The Golem Team’s dark house vehicle, a Ford F-150, which defied expectations by traveling over 5 miles after a weak qualification
Many of the vehicles used a commercial light detection and ranging, or Lidar, units, to find their way along the route
A few teams used hardened laptops for vehicle control. SciAutonics’ Rascal used an Itronix GoBook
Team CajunBot takes their vehicle out for a joyride after the race