The long-awaited (at least for those of us interested in robotics) DARPA Urban Challenge will commence at 0700 EDT this Saturday, November 3. Up to 20 vehicles are slated to compete, narrowed down from approximately 35 candidates during this week’s qualifying trials.
The first DARPA Grand Challenge saw the top vehicle complete only 5 miles of the 142-mile course; in the second, four self-driven cars completed the 132-mile route in under 10 hours. The winner of that challenge, Stanley, a diesel-powered VW Touareg from Stanford, took home $2,000,000. This year’s prizes are the same ($2 million first prize, $500,000 second, and $250,000 third), but the challenge is much more difficult. Instead of navigating a pretty much straight and unobstructed course in the flat desert, competitors’ vehicles will have to navigate 60 miles of urban roads, including four-way intersections and merging with traffic. They must also go around buildings, travel narrow roads, handle traffic circles, and obey all traffic laws.
The challenge is set up at the abandoned George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. I’d love to go, but first of all, I’m busy on Saturdays, and second, I couldn’t get there. I suppose I’ll just have to look for videos on the Web after the fact.