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DARPA Announces 36 Semi-Finalists
For Urban Challenge

Autonomous Vehicle Competition to be Held in Victorville, CA

Press Release / DARPA 9aug2007

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203-1714

Harnessing American Ingenuity

(Anaheim, Calif.) – Dr. Tony Tether, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), today announced the 36 teams (list attached) selected as semi-finalists for the Urban Challenge. The semi-finalists will next compete in the Urban Challenge National Qualification Event (NQE) scheduled for October 26-31, 2007. 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.

DARPA also announced that both the Urban Challenge NQE and final event will take place 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 best simulate the type of terrain American forces operate in when deployed overseas. “The robotic vehicles will conduct simulated military supply missions at the site. This adds many of the elements these vehicles would face in operational environments,” explained Dr. Tether.

The Victorville site is currently used by the U.S. Army to train for urban operations. As soon as the Army finishes their training rotation, DARPA will conduct clean-up operations to ready the site for the competition. DARPA emphasized that as of today’s announcement, the site is closed until team arrival on October 24. Photographs of the site and more information about the event are available at www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge.

At the NQE and the final event, the robots must operate entirely autonomously, without human intervention, and obey California traffic laws while performing maneuvers such as merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, and avoiding moving obstacles. Dr. Tether noted, “The vehicles must perform as well as someone with a California Driver’s License.”

DARPA conducted competitive site visits across the United States to select the semi- finalists. Dr. Tether told attendees at DARPATech that he was at a site visit and was surprised how well the team’s autonomous vehicle made it through an intersection with other cars, just as if there was a human driver in the vehicle. “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,” Dr. Tether said.

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.

The semi-finalist teams selected to participate in the NQE are listed below. DARPA will announce the participants in the main event at the conclusion of the NQE.


  1. Austin Robot Technology Austin, Texas

  2. AvantGuardium Bethesda, Maryland

  3. Axion Racing Westlake Village, California

  4. Ben Franklin Racing Team Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  5. CarOLO New York, New York

  6. Gator Nation Gainesville, Florida

  7. Golem Group Santa Monica, California

  8. Insight Racing Cary, North Carolina

  9. Intelligent Vehicle Systems Dearborn, Michigan

  10. MIT Cambridge, Massachusetts

  11. Mojavaton Grand Junction, Colorado

  12. Ody-Era Kokomo, Indiana

  13. OSU-ACT Columbus, Ohio

  14. Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey

  15. SciAutonics/Auburn Engineering Thousand Oaks, California

  16. Stanford Racing Team Stanford, California

  17. Sting Racing Atlanta, Georgia

  18. Tartan Racing Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  19. Team AnnieWay Palo Alto, California

  20. Team Autonomous Solutions Petersboro, Utah

  21. Team Berlin Houston, Texas

  22. Team CajunBot Lafayette, Louisiana

  23. Team Caltech Pasadena, California

  24. Team Case Cleveland, Ohio

  25. Team Cornell Ithaca, New York

  26. Team Cybernet Ann Arbor, Michigan

  27. Team Gray Metairie, Louisiana

  28. Team Jefferson Crozet, Virginia

  29. Team Juggernaut Sandy, Utah

  30. Team-LUX Woodstock, Maryland

  31. Team Oshkosh Truck Oshkosh, Wisconsin

  32. Team UCF Orlando, Florida

  33. Team Urbanator Littleton, Colorado

  34. University of Utah Salt Lake City, Utah

  35. UU Westminster, Maryland

  36. VictorTango Blacksburg, Virginia



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.

source: 10aug2007

DARPA's Urban Challenge

Carnegie Mellon University Makes Cut for
DARPA Robotic Development

ALLISON M. HEINRICHS / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9aug2007

[Background below]

See enlargement below

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced today that Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing team and 35 other teams worldwide are semifinalists to compete for $2 million in the secretive government-sponsored Urban Challenge.

The challenge — meant to spur robotic development — will pit autonomous vehicles against one another on Nov. 3rd to see which can best navigate roads in an urban military training facility without human help.

Carnegie Mellon is entering "Boss," a Chevy Tahoe named for General Motors Research founder Charles F. "Boss" Kettering, in the competition.

DARPA also announced that the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif., would be the site of the challenge.

"The robotic vehicles will conduct simulated military supply missions at the site," said Tony Tether, director of DARPA. "This adds many of the elements these vehicles would face in operational environments."

The semifinalists will compete in a final qualifying round at the site on October 26th and be whittled down to 20 teams.

Those teams' vehicles will have to perform like cars with drivers to safely conduct a simulated battlefield supply mission on a 60-mile urban course, obeying California traffic laws while merging into traffic, navigating traffic circles and avoiding obstacles — all in fewer than six hours. The team to successfully complete the mission with the fastest time wins.

"Technology from the Urban Challenge is destined to change the driving experience," said William "Red" Whittaker, Tartan Racing team leader and robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon.

source: 10aug2007

What is the Urban Challenge?

DARPA Website 10aug2007

The DARPA Urban Challenge is an autonomous vehicle research and development program with the goal of developing technology that will keep warfighters 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.

The program is conducted as a series of qualification steps leading to a competitive final event, scheduled to take place on November 3, 2007. The exact location will be announced before the National Qualification Event scheduled for October 2007. DARPA is offering $2M for the fastest qualifying vehicle, and $1M and $500,000 for second and third place.

This program is an outgrowth of two previous DARPA Grand Challenge autonomous vehicle competitions. The first Grand Challenge event was held in March 2004 and featured a 142-mile desert course. Fifteen autonomous ground vehicles attempted the course and no vehicle finished. In the 2005 Grand Challenge, four autonomous vehicles successfully completed a 132-mile desert route under the required 10-hour limit, and DARPA awarded a $2 million prize to “Stanley” from Stanford University.

What is an autonomous ground vehicle?

An autonomous ground vehicle is a vehicle that navigates and drives entirely on its own with no human driver and no remote control. Through the use of various sensors and positioning systems, the vehicle determines all the characteristics of its environment required to enable it to carry out the task it has been assigned.

Why develop autonomous vehicles?

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Public Law 106-398, Congress mandated in Section 220 that “It shall be a goal of the Armed Forces to achieve the fielding of unmanned, remotely controlled technology such that… by 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles are unmanned.” DARPA conducts the Urban Challenge program in support of this Congressional mandate. Every “dull, dirty, or dangerous” task that can be carried out using a machine instead of a human protects our warfighters and allows valuable human resources to be used more effectively.

Who are the teams?

The Urban Challenge teams come from across the United States and around the world, and share a passion for the advancement of robotic technology and machine intelligence. This diverse group includes teams from both academia and the robotics, automotive, and defense industries. Some teams are affiliated with organizations, others are groups of volunteers who have come together specifically for the challenge. Each is working to develop a vehicle to complete the 60-mile urban course in less than six hours. Please visit the Teams page for more information.

What are Tracks A and B?

When the Urban Challenge kicked off, DARPA announced an opportunity for teams to receive funding in amounts up to $1M to develop their autonomous vehicle. Sixty-five proposals were reviewed and evaluated, and 11 recipients were announced. “Track A” refers to the teams that were selected to receive funding. All teams compete on an equal footing to participate in the Urban Challenge.

How does a team apply to participate in the Urban Challenge?

The application period closed in October 2006.

Team leaders apply to participate more than one year before the event by providing DARPA with basic information on their teams and vehicles. From this point, teams undergo a rigorous evaluation and qualification process: demonstration videos are due in April 2007, technical papers are due in June 2007, and site visit tests are conducted in July 2007. Teams that are successful will be invited to participate in the National Qualification Event in October 2007, where they will compete for the chance to participate in the Urban Challenge Final Event.

Eleven of the 89 teams participating, the “Track A” teams, applied for and received seed funding for development of their vehicle. The 78 “Track B” teams are entirely self-supported.

source: 10aug2007

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