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The Military Robotics The Almighty Buck

$2 Million on the Table for DARPA Urban Challenge 88

Posted by Zonk
from the go-robo-racer-go dept.
coondoggie writes "The contestants: Thirty-five driverless vehicles. The goal: to navigate an intricate faux-urban environment quickly. The prize: $2 million for the fastest qualifying vehicle. 'The National Qualification Event will take place this weekend ... DARPA says its third-annual Urban Challenge program has the lofty goal of developing technology that will keep soldiers off the battlefield and out of harm's way. The Urban Challenge features autonomous ground vehicles maneuvering in a mock city environment, executing simulated military supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles.'" I'll be cheering, as long as the creepy robot bear isn't participating.
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$2 Million on the Table for DARPA Urban Challenge

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  • solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by User 956 (568564) on Friday October 26, 2007 @04:56PM (#21134109) Homepage
    DARPA says its third-annual Urban Challenge program has the lofty goal of developing technology that will keep soldiers off the battlefield and out of harm's way.

    We already have that. It's called congress. It's just broken right now.
  • My entry, the mechanical turck is a shoo in to win it all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2007 @04:58PM (#21134137)
    Because the wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And their duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.
  • by Erioll (229536) on Friday October 26, 2007 @05:01PM (#21134163)
    Screw cars that will parallel park themselves, if they can make cars that navigate those abominations that are Traffic Circles, I'd buy THAT!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Traffic circles are simple. You just can wait for an engraved invitation to enter the circle. Usually I get caught behind one of these folks and watch with amazement as they pass up opportunity after opportunity.
      • Maybe there are a lot of vampires in your area? I seem to remember something about them not being able to enter circles without being invited.
    • by HyperJ (940722)
      Why not just close your eyes and drive, which I believe is the philosophy the French follow? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZfiiSXqeSk [youtube.com]
    • Traffic Circles? Yeah, it does suck living in New Jersey. Get with the rest of the world and build some roundabouts.

      Yes, there is a difference. Wikipedia knows.

      (Roundabouts are generally smaller, and ALWAYS follow the "yield when entering" system, unlike traffic circles in NJ)
    • by vectra14 (470008)
      (Preface: I'm a member of one of the DUC teams. I'm at the NQE right now.)

      There *is* a traffic circle, although not really a roundabout. 2 lanes all around, moving in the same direction. Several merges and exits. Seems like teams are OK with it so far but that course currently doesn't seem to include moving traffic.
  • Ahh, retirement... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Friday October 26, 2007 @05:05PM (#21134233) Journal
    God but I love technology! The old WWII vets are all worried about losing their mobility when the state determnes they're no longer fit to drive. By the time I'm that old (and I have gray hair and a white beard already) I'll have Sally. [wikipedia.org]

    Military implications? Pshaw, I want my car to drive me home when I'm too drunk to drive myself!

    -mcgrew
    • by calebt3 (1098475)
      Only when you're too drunk?
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        No, it would be nice to be able to read, or watch the scenery go by as I was travelling. But it would be even nicer to be able to get home from a bar without staggering or calling a cab! I try not to drink farther than staggering distance.

        Of course, when I retire I may just stop getting sober.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hackstraw (262471)
      Pshaw, I want my car to drive me home when I'm too drunk to drive myself!

      Think of all of the social changes that self driving cars would bring.

      No more police checkpoints. Kids with as much freedom as drunks, old people, and "normal" adults. No speeding tickets. Car chases in the movies will have to be set in the past, and eventually will look like westerns do today. Registration, insurance, and all that is the responsibility of the _driver_ today. Terrorists will no longer have to hijack trucks and stu
    • by jhol13 (1087781)

      I want my car to drive me home when I'm too drunk to drive myself!

      I too want your car to drive you home when you are too drunk to drive. (I never go drinking with a car anymore, it used to be annoying to fetch it the next day ...).

      More seriously, I am waiting for the time when cars can drive themselves. It would solve so many problems. I might be able sell my car (and join a car pool) getting perhaps $300 savings a month. Unfortunately it seems I'll be dead before that happens.

      • by sm62704 (957197)
        Unfortunately it seems I'll be dead before that happens

        What, I'm 55, are you even older than me? It's not going to be that long; they already have one that parks itself on the market.
        • by jhol13 (1087781)
          No, I'm younger (40 something). From parking to *legal* driving I think will take over 40 years.

          I'd love to be proved wrong.
          • by sm62704 (957197)
            I hope you're wrong too, but I fear you're right. I expected cars to be driving themselves by now. OTOH, paralell parking is about the hardest thing for a human to do.

            I never saw what the probelem with self-driving cars was. Edge recognition has been around for a couple of decades, as has item avoidance (it's how video games work; heck I wrote a battle tank game on a 1mz Sinclair a quarter century ago). Aside from being able to read traffic signs (and OCR has been around for at least 15 years) I really don'
    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      Somewhat OT: Sally reminds me of the Police song. [oldielyrics.com]

      Not so very OT though; it is similar in that it too is "replacement technology". :)

  • They aren't really soldiers then, are they?

    • by capoe3 (1180261)
      Soldiers of the future will look a whole lot more like the guys I see at QuakeCon.
    • by Lifyre (960576)
      We call them the Air Force. Semper Fi!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I don't think this sort of technology will replace soldiers right out. However, it can be
      a great help in certain situations where you don't want to risk soldiers lives. EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) currently use robots to take out mines, IED's etc. These are different in the sense that they are remote controlled by well trained individuals.
      I see being able to negotiate urban obstacles in overly hostile environments to be a huge advantage especially if they are entirely autonomous. You can then send
      • by martyb (196687)

        I don't think this sort of technology will replace soldiers right out. However, it can be a great help in certain situations where you don't want to risk soldiers lives.

        Agreed. In fact, my first thought when I heard of this: automated supply lines. If (and that is a BIG "if") they can get this to work, AND come up with solid evasive techniques, I could very well see a convoy of these being used to supply troops in the field. It takes a LOT of material to support an army: food, shelter, transport, fuel, parts, etc. Basically, if it wasn't there before, then it had to be transported there. And, if it won't last forever, it will need to be replaced and that means THAT

  • What about... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lifyre (960576) on Friday October 26, 2007 @05:08PM (#21134275)
    Caveat I haven't had a chance to read the entire challenge to see if it answers this question. I'm in Iraq I have better things to do, sort of...

    Does the vehicle have to be one piece? Specifically can it launch a UAV to provide a top down view of the street? This could be then used to avoid crowds (or head towards them), get around dead ends, and generally navigate the cities. The imagery we have is often horribly out of date and roads have moved, stopped existing, or new ones have popped up.

    I think having an eye in the sky dedicated to the vehicle could be a tremendous asset.
    • by Rakishi (759894)
      Well I assume that:
      1. A dedicated UAV sent from some other location would make much more sense, launching and retrieving a UAV would be trying to make it a jack of all trades (and thus sacrifice it's ability to do any task well).
      2. UAVs can be shot down, communications can be blocked and radio receivers can be damaged. If there is a single easy to exploit point of failure then the whole system is worthless. It needs to be able to move on it's own and everything else is gravy. In others there is no point in
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TinheadNed (142620)
      I haven't checked the rules, but unless something's massively changed from last time, there's no reason to launch a UAV because for a start that would be massively more complicated and more expensive than required, and secondly DARPA are still providing GPS waypoints.

      But I wouldn't have thought they'd want another UAV, there are other competitions for that. Navigating round the traffic is the tricky part. And recognising all the signs and speed limits and stuff.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The vehicle has to start in one piece, have a reasonable form factor (no 100ft periscopes!) and cannot eject any material other than exhaust. So no UAV's, bread crumb trails, oil slicks for your competitors, etc.
      • oil slicks for your competitors
        I was kind of wondering what DARPA's next challenge would be after a group won the urban challenge. Now I know: the DARPA Diddy Kong Racing Challenge.
    • Many of us are working to combine teams of UAVs and UGVs for just this reason. I'm not participating in the competition, though. Dean
    • Re:What about... (Score:4, Informative)

      by David_Shultz (750615) on Friday October 26, 2007 @10:51PM (#21136829)
      Does the vehicle have to be one piece? Specifically can it launch a UAV to provide a top down view of the street? This could be then used to avoid crowds (or head towards them), get around dead ends, and generally navigate the cities. The imagery we have is often horribly out of date and roads have moved, stopped existing, or new ones have popped up.

      Yes. All of the equipment has to be on the vehicle. As far as communication goes: GPS is allowed, and a remote kill switch is allowed (required, actually). Other than that, everything is on board. Typical fare is regular cameras (which have good distance vision, but require some smart computer vision algorithms) combined with laser range finders. The winner of the last DARPA challenge was a robot named Stanley (from Stanford) who mapped laser range finding data onto the video images, thus identifying the safe path in the image to travel through.
    • by gr8scot (1172435)
      Yes & no. They should be able to communicate with GPS systems, but not depend on them.
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      I would not call this a troll, it's a damn serious human rights issue. Who can you stand up to for inhumane abuse of these systems? Why shouldn't they go around and shoot at running kids, the movements kids make are quite probably similar to that of someone who is suddenly attacking.

      Who will be held responsible? I admit, already now it is a problem and you will most likely not see any justice as a (family member of a) victim, but at least at the moment, any attack done is a human decision. Also remember t

  • He's seriously been working for 18 hours a day for the last 3 weeks. He looks cracked out, but he's just DARPAed
  • aside from the fact any stop signs and road markings may now be a crater. Do many soldiers get stuck in traffic in the middle of a war zone?

    Surely a better idea would be to train these vehicles to drive evasively once ambushed to stop supplies from not reaching the front line?

    I for one never saw a traffic report from baghdad during the war...
    • First off, they are not detecting signs of any type. Secondly, road markings are only one cue that is available for the vehicles to perform. This is an effort by DARPA to push technology forward without major investment. This effort, unlike previous efforts, did fund 10 teams for a $1 million apiece on a milestone basis. The general idea is to get good technology into the field faster and cheaper. DARPA has always had issues transitioning funded efforts into fielded products. It isn't their primar
      • What this research will REALLY do is lay the foundation for future vehicles, both military and civilian, which will not REQUIRE drivers to get from A---B. There are a number of instances in which this technology would be actively stupid to employ, such as the current situation in Iraq or AFG. Insurrections would thrive on the availability of supplies available by simple roadblocking of automated convoys (for a short period of time, anyway). Yet this tech will, eventually, be used as the foundation of veh
    • by vertinox (846076)
      aside from the fact any stop signs and road markings may now be a crater. Do many soldiers get stuck in traffic in the middle of a war zone?

      Actually, look up the word "IED" on youtube and watch the videos driving on patrols where IED are used against them (Actually, this one called "I get blown up!" is a home made one of the solders from inside (warning they use a bit of a cursing)) and they are driving around in urban combats usually with other military vehicles stopped around them and other civilian ones
  • Fully automated armoured infantry.

     
  • Automated robotic fighting vehicle? Sounds like a Bolo to me....
  • by PPH (736903) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:36PM (#21135451)
    In my town we have quire a few vehicles, mainly large Cadillacs, that cruise the streets with no apparent driver. They still have some bugs to work out, as they don't always stop for signals or pedestrians. And they definitely don't move very quickly.

    Upon closer inspection, one can see a little grey head not quite level with the dashboard. But I don't think these occupants have any connection to the vehicles' control.

  • by vandan (151516) on Friday October 26, 2007 @09:25PM (#21136245) Homepage
    Developing robots for urban warfare isn't exactly going to decrease civilian deaths or injuries. It's going to increase them. The only thing it will decrease is the reports of dead US soliders. A great example of the twisted focus on 'our' deaths came recently here in Australia. The 2nd Australian solider was killed in Afghanistan. Absolutely everyone on the mainstream media and 2-party political system is falling over themselves to declare our fallen solider a hero. But no-one ever talks about the thousands of hero is Afghanistan, such as men, women and children who 'soldier on' after having their loved ones killed and injured, and classified as 'collateral damage'. These are the real heroes - the innocent civilians who face incredible hardship precisely because of our military and economic meddling in their country. Instead of developing better killing systems, we should develop a more just society. To all those drones protest that we need to fight terrorism - get a grip - we're creating the terrorism. Remove the cause, and the symptom will disintegrate.
    • Way to turn a nice topic about robotics into the standard diatribe.

      Bonus points for mentioning the "root causes" of terrorism. Hint: it's called Islam.

      • by cumin (1141433)

        Thag say war bad!

        Thag say why war? Thag think must be people mad, don't make people mad! Let them do whatever they want! Thag gladly give DNS-and-BIND as peace offering to bullies.

        Islam isn't bad, just kill all the people who don't convert and you'll see. (Burn karma, burn!)

      • by vandan (151516)
        Oh dear. Even the Chinese are buying the US trash about the war on terror. But then, you're not a typical Chinese, are you? You're in with the dictatorship. I suppose it suits your purpose to support the whole 'war on terror' ideology. I think you need to worry less about Islam, and more about your own government. Try reading some Marx and Lenin, and get a grip on what socialism is really about, and then have a good look at the pathetic excuse for a social system in your own country.
        • WTF are you talking about? Just because I live in China doesn't make me Chinese. I think someone is projecting his anxieties on the world at large, because I don't get what the hell you're talking about. China is not a dictatorship. Hu Jintao's word does not travel very far at all outside Beijing. Please try to be more informed and less spittle-flecked next time.
          • by vandan (151516)

            I don't get what the hell you're talking about. China is not a dictatorship

            Oh really? You're one deluded dude. I especially like all the pro-CCP-dicatorship propaganda you have set as your home page - it makes you look really independent when you claim that China is ... what exactly, if not a dictatorship? Please tell. Actually, don't bother. Think about it to yourself. I already know the answer, and if you can't bring yourself to admit it, I'm not really interested in hearing how great China is from a ra

            • Dude. Seriously. Just because I buy commie posters for 50 cents apiece and sell them for $20 doesn't indicate any political views. A dictatorship has...wait for it...a dictator. Who is dictator of China? It certainly isn't Hu Jintao. His power is severely circumscribed by the Party apparatus. Also, wipe the spittle off the corners of your mouth.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @02:18AM (#21137885) Homepage

    One of the major side effects of the DARPA Grand Challenge series is that the supporting hardware has become much better. You can now buy most of the major components off the shelf. GPS/INS/compass/odometer navigation units are a few thousand dollars, rugged, and work well. When the first Grand Challenge was announced, the off-the-shelf solution cost about $170K and required 4U of rackmount space, with air conditioning. CMU actually used that in the first round.

    LIDAR units have improved enormously in the last two years. Last time around, everybody just had single-beam line scanner LIDARs, usually from SICK, except for Team DAD, who built a multibeam scanner that worked but wasn't rugged enough. This time, the major players have multibeam LIDAR units from Velodyne or Ibeo. Velodyne's unit has 64 lasers on a spinning drum. Now you can image your entire environment in 3D at 5Hz.

    Controlling the vehicle is easier, too. There are now cars available with electrical power steering and brakes, and one can tap into those systems to drive. And there are at least three vendors selling gear for remote/autonomous driving of existing cars.

    So now it's almost entirely a software problem. You don't burn so much time and effort building sensor and actuator systems.

  • There is a team in my county that is competing in this challenge. They have put out fliers before, looking for sponsors and manpower.

    Here is their website: http://aimagic.org/html/agv_wendy_darling.html [aimagic.org]
    The picture of the car in TFA is kind of wimpy compared with this team. Instead of trying to drive a car around a simulated city, they have outfitted a huge military truck. Here are some specs:

    # M-215 Cargo Truck 2.5 ton
    # GVW=18,560 lbs. Empty weight 14,460 lbs.
    # GMC 2-1/2 ton
    # AIM AutoPilot

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