Posted By RichC on March 29, 2006
There was an excellent program on public television’s NOVA Tuesday night detailing the DARPA Challenge that I mentioned back in October of 2005. I’ve included the intro video clip below, but the program is well worth watching as it introduces the different teams, individuals and strategies. Considering none of the ‘driverless’ vehicles went farther than 7 miles in 2004, this year was a huge success for several teams.
Perhaps the primary reason for mentioning this program is because the Sanford team built their computers, video camera, lasers and GPS equipment around a Volkswagen Touareg TDI diesel. In their first year competing for the 2 million dollar prize, they focused on the software end of robotics and kept the hardware realatively simple. This proved to be a winning strategy.
One observation I made after watching the program and seeing the many failures robotic vehicles had in discerning obsticles, was that finishing this race was victory enough. It was quite an impressive combination of brains and creativity that someday may find its place in future vehicles. As some of us conclude, it would be nice if the purpose was non-military rather than yet another unmanned weapon platform. Nevertheless we do need the military and hopefully future robotic vehicles and equipment will save the lives of those fighting to protect us from enemies while securing our nation.
If the program reairs be sure to check it out. I’ll include a web streaming intro clip below. (or for a downloadable, higher quality H.264 20meg Quicktime clip just right-click/save as)