DARPA Grand Challenge Vehicles Face Many Obstacles To Qualify

Autonomous robotic vehicles compete in DAPA's Grand Challenge. Think of these vehicles as extra large to gigantic mobile computers with a lot of sophisticated sensors and massive computing power, but without external network connections. While it is OK to use wired or wireless networking hardware on the vehicle itself for internal communications and control, no Internet or other external connections are permitted while the vehicles are participating in the contest.

Here is the somewhat larger than laptop entry from Team Terramax, a partnership of the Oshkosh Truck Company, Ohio State University and the University of Parma in Italy.

This past week, at the National Qualifying Event, 43 teams competed for the 20 available starting spots in the DARPA Grand Challenge. The approximately 150 mile race will be held October 8 in Primm, Nevada and the winner will receive $2 Million U.S. Dollars. Before competing in the desert race, vehicles must demonstrate basic obstacle avoidance by passing a rigorous 2.2 mile course filled with dastardly obstacles.

In the year leading up to this year's race, teams have been tuning their obstacle avoidance and path finding software to deal with these obstacles. Let's take a look at the obstacles that DARPA uses to annoy and disable many of the robotic vehicles. What makes some obstacles easy to avoid, while others are so difficult to deal with?

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