November 6, 2007
A self-driving SUV called Boss made history by driving swiftly and safely while sharing the road with human drivers and other robots. The feat earned Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing first place in the DARPA Urban Challenge.
Officials of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) declared Boss the winner of the Nov. 3 event, which pitted 11 autonomous vehicles against each other on a course of suburban/urban roadways. The first place prize includes a $2 million cash award.
After reviewing judges' scorecards overnight, DARPA officials concluded that Boss, a robotized 2007 Chevy Tahoe, followed California driving laws as it navigated the course and that it operated in a safe and stable manner.
Faculty, students, and alumni from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) were among the contributors to the 45-member Tartan Racing team.
"The success of Carnegie Mellon's Tartan Racing team in the DARPA Urban Challenge is a consequence of both technology and teamwork," said ECE Department Head T.E. (Ed) Schlesinger, a member of the team. "This effort required the very best of everyone involved and the entire team is to be congratulated on an outstanding effort over the many months leading up to this tremendous result."
The longstanding GM-Carnegie Mellon Collaborative Research Lab (GM-CM CRL) brought hardware integration and system engineering skills to the squad. The GM-CM CRL research takes on challenges that aim to transform the face of automotive technologies. Raj Rajkumar, Professor of ECE and Co-Director of the GM-CM CRL, led the systems engineering group for the project and was a member of the steering board for the Tartan Racing consortium. He predicts that autonomous driving is the next revolution in automobiles.
"Horse-driven carriages were replaced by human-driven autos in the 20th century. We will see autonomously driven vehicles in the first half of the 21st century, changing transportation again forever," he said.
"Consumer vehicles, cargo trucks, delivery vehicles, and mining/construction equipment will become autonomous. Every auto owner will be able to afford a 24x7 chauffeur and valet." He added: "Fatalities from automobile crashes will near zero and the impact of accident injuries will be greatly reduced. Traffic congestion will become manageable."
"The DARPA Urban Challenge has successfully demonstrated that the foundational capabilities to make this vision a reality already exist today. The energetic participation and the high-quality performance of several teams, including Stanford and Virginia Tech, are a continuing testament to the breadth and depth of the creativity and interest in this technology," Rajkumar reported.
He continued: "Tartan Racing's win is an exemplar of how a long-term relationship between sponsors like GM and Carnegie Mellon can be leveraged to take on grand challenges and succeed."
Besides Rajkumar and Schlesinger, another ECE affiliated faculty member in the group was Senior Systems Scientist John Dolan, who led the behaviors team for the Urban Challenge.
In addition to GM, Caterpillar and Continental AG, Tartan Racing's sponsors include Intel, Google, Applanix, TeleAtlas, NetApp, Vector CANTech, Ibeo, Mobileye, HP, CarSim, CleanPower Resources, M/A-Com and McCabe Software.
Source: Carnegie Mellon News
Pictured is Boss, the self-driving SUV that earned Tartan Racing first place in the DARPA Urban Challenge. Photo courtesy of Tartan Racing.