“I, Robot - Part 1” (#1141)
SynopsisIf the participants in last week's DARPA Urban Challenge could talk, these might be the first words they utter...and not because they're big Will Smith fans. No, the contestants in the third installment of this U.S. Defense Department-sponsored race were, in fact, robots themselves. The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been searching for military applications of autonomous vehicles. In an effort to accelerate the R & D effort, DARPA developed the Grand Challenge a few years ago with a monetary reward for the top finishers. Many academic institutions saw this as a perfect extension of the classroom. Meanwhile, many corporations believed there would be numerous research advantages from being involved in the competition and thus, teamed up with their university counterparts. But this contest contains not only the academic & corporate behemoths you'd expect, but the Walter Mitty-types as well--teams with few resources but big robot dreams.
Because this is such a cutting-edge contest with broad implications, Autoline Detroit went onsite to the high desert of Victorville, California--site of the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge--to discover why the automotive industry is so heavily-involved in this autonomous vehicle competition. John McElroy talks with the technology gurus from the OEMs and Tier Ones as well as students from the universities who actually build the systems that drive the robotic vehicles.