December 11, 2006 One of the most intriguing contests ever conceived , the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge for autonomous robotic ground vehicles will take place on November 3, 2007, at an undisclosed location in the western United States. First prize will be US$2 million, second gets US$1,000,000 and third takes home US$500,000, awards that will go to the top three finishers to complete the 60-mile course through traffic within the six hour time limit. The fully autonomous ground vehicles will be tested to the full, conducting simulated military supply missions safely and effectively in a mock urban area. To succeed, vehicles must obey traffic laws while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles. Human understanding of the technology required to make vehicles smarter and safer will grow rapidly in the preparation for the contest and expedite the time when we’ll be switching to autopilot for long journeys on intelligent roads in our intelligent cars.
DARPA’s original cash prize authority for the first two Grand Challenges expired with the passage of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. DARPA had planned to award trophies to the top three finishers in the Urban Challenge, but Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Kenneth J. Krieg approved the cash prizes for the first, second and third teams.
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“The Urban Challenge is quickly approaching,” noted Dr. Norman Whitaker, DARPA’s Urban Challenge program manager. “With less than a year until the National Qualification Event, teams will soon begin road-testing their vehicles.”
DARPA’s Grand Challenge has been successful in attracting enthusiasts from around the world to develop autonomous vehicle technology that will some day protect the lives of American men and women on the battlefield. Operation of autonomous vehicles in the Urban Challenge will test the ability of robots to operate safely and effectively in populated, busy areas.