As Well, Robots Can Drive?

In California, the biggest competition for robotic cars has come to an end. Without the driver had ten trolleybuses six hours worth in city traffic. The exercise was primarily the U.S. military – it is looking for new techniques for urban warfare.

robots can driveThis is the Darpa Urban Challenge in California, the world’s largest competition for robot cars. People driving are not provided; the cars must be equipped with radar, laser and video technology to find their own way. Car 13, a fairly even outwardly battered Subaru combination holds, there is obviously a very human strategy: Before I do something wrong, I’d rather do nothing. Interestingly, the other robot cars in total are in the final eleven o’clock at the start, deposited in their software plans to deal with the errors of the number 13. Sebastian Thrun, a professor of computer science and project leader of the team from Stanford University, says: “If after 15 seconds the car, the priority would have is not being driven, drives junior los careful,” Junior is a VW Passat Variant, packed with computer and sensor technology and loaded with the favorites. Two years ago, his predecessor, Stanley, a robotic VW Touareg SUV type, the Challenge has won.

It was at that time but only about a way to reproduce long in the desert while avoiding obstacles, the organizers have tightened the conditions clear. Now the cars are in the city, a total of six hours. The competition will be held at an abandoned military base, there is a ten square kilometer road network with traffic circles and intersections. And an additional eleven of the finalists manned orbit around 50 cars to simulate city traffic. “This is quite a strain,” said Tom Macomber, one of the stuntmen that travel between the robot cars. “You just never know what happens.”

From the outside, nothing much happened. The robots drive cars at intersections approach emphasizes slow, stop a bit jerky and then drive in the style of a learner driver release. Also, car number 13, it has finally considered. Struck twelve minutes, he had stood. Probably he had come to count the other cars mixed up. For in the U.S. is at a crossroads not equal the norm, “right before left”, but “First come, first go” – who first reached the intersection may also continue first. This is often difficult to assess even for people. But robots, which operate without eye contact with each other, then obviously the crash near. As cars approached rolls 13, a second time at the intersection, he travels with the rules and go first, but then makes the middle of the intersection on the brakes and stops about 30 seconds. Later we see him as he is stranded in the driveway of a house. Cart 13 is one of five players who have to.

It’s about war operations
The rules are strict, because behind all the competition is the military. DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – the research center of the U.S. Army. And project manager Norman Whitaker makes no secret of what it really is at the challenge. “We want to protect people on the battlefield.” Unmanned aerial vehicles for drives, for maintenance, but also wants to develop the Darpa urban warfare, and many of the American teams have no problem with it.

The company Oshkosh Trucks in Wisconsin has about the Martial vehicle, with obvious intention sent into the race, a bright green truck in the Unimog format. Tony Tether, the DARPA director, was of the Terramax called Robo-Truck with 425-horsepower diesel so impressed that he proclaimed over loudspeakers: “The first autonomous vehicle that the Army will ever buy will be very similar to the Terramax. Unfortunately, different from Terramax after only 90 minutes.

For Volkswagen, which supports junior at Stanford University, is the military focus of the Challenge is a problem. Research chief Juergen Leohold: “We always consider whether we can still agree with our objectives. As soon as it were in the competition for any military scenarios, would be for us a clear day. “

The German group, which is directly next to the Stanford University in Palo Alto maintains a research laboratory of electronics, is used to competition for the development of its driver assistance systems: lane departure warning, automatic parking, automatic distance keeping, it is already, the next could Leohold automatic emergency braking with full brake imagine. “We’re here not because we believe in 20 years to build self-propelled cars. But because this is the tip of the science in this field here. “

At the end of the VW Passat comes with the name Junior finished first, but it gains the “Boss”, an imposing Chevrolet Tahoe, the robot controller brings him earlier, after taking account of all imposed penalties for driving error time by about 20 minutes into the goal. Three missions, one is indeed in the military as a guest who have completed six to finally remaining in the race cars, three were the teams five minutes before the start of a USB stick attached, which the route was saved by the Darpa the respective car had prescribed. Waypoint to waypoint had to be shut down, and the two winners saw whenever they went somewhere along, very confident. The Boss of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, accelerated even more confident, had during the Stanford team’s robotic Passat more to ensure safety and focuses a little bit slower.

All of the cars were limited to a maximum speed of 30 miles (50 km / h), which is only slowly at first glance – after all, they were without a driver or remote control on the move. “When you consider that, even ten miles are very fast,” says Darpa-man Whitaker. “We have learned not to turn off their back.”