This past weekend, the Defense Department’s Urban Challenge 2007 took place in the desert between LA and Las Vegas. Driverless, the computer-run vehicles had to maneuver around neighborhood streets and obstacles at a deserted AF base. Although “Junior,” Stanford’s 2006 Volkswagen Passat station wagon diesel, crossed the finish line first, the grand prize went to the Tartan Racing team, based on safety as well as speed. Stanford was second, followed by team Victor Tango. This time, 6 of the 11 finalists crossed the finish line. We can see why the military would be interested in this technology, especially when you consider its shock value application. Check out a video we shot of the Carnegie-Mellon team qualifying for the DARPA event.
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We visited one of the fifty or so groups participating in the DARPA Urban Challenge during one of their qualifying rounds. In case you are unaware, the DARPA Urban Challenge is a charge given publicly to groups who are capable of designing and proving the technology for autonomously driven vehicles. Carnegie Mellon University teamed up with GM to create an autonomous SUV they call “Boss.” In order to participate in November’s 60-mile urban driverless race, they need to pass this benchmark. Check out the video to see Boss pull perfect three point turns and beautifully follow traffic rules - even at four way stops with other cars. We’re crazy excited to see this technology come alive in our society. The team from DARPA is darting back and forth across our country qualifying and disqualifying entries. Some of the remaining companies and teams will bring us autonomously driven cars during our lifetime, its amazing how close we already are.