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DARPA Grand Challenge 2005

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the gobots dept.

Robotics 164

fishdan wrote to mention that the Darpa Grand Challenge is getting underway again. The qualifying rounds started yesterday. National media has picked up on the story, with pieces at the Washington Post and Seattle Times. From the Post: "The autonomous robotic vehicles began competing Wednesday in the first of a series of qualifying rounds at the California Speedway. Half will advance to the Oct. 8 starting line of the so-called Grand Challenge. The grueling, weeklong semifinals are designed to test the vehicles' ability to cover a roughly 2-mile stretch of the track without a human driver or remote control. Participants ranging from souped-up SUVs to military behemoths will be graded on how well they can self-drive on rough road, make sharp turns and avoid obstacles _ hay bales, trash cans, wrecked cars _ while relying on GPS navigation and sensors, radar, lasers and cameras that feed information to computers."

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If there's one thing worse (5, Funny)

HugePedlar (900427) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676736)

than a soccer mom driving her only child in an SUV it's an SUV driving no one.

Re:If there's one thing worse (2, Insightful)

AnObfuscator (812343) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677995)

than a soccer mom driving her only child in an SUV it's an SUV driving no one.

*eyeroll* Oh, dear goodness, that is one of the most rediculous +4 insightful posts I've ever read.

Right, because using an SUV chassis for a project that advances our knowledge and technological capabilities in the Computer Science fields of robotoics and AI is such a major problem in the US. Scientific research... bah! It's a perfect example of conspicuous consumerism! After all, using an SUV for it's original design specification -- offroad travel -- to advance the knowledge of the human race is definitely the cause of our dependance on fossil fuels.

After all, our oil usage has NOTHING to do with aircraft, ships, pleasure craft, air conditioning our houses, heating our pools, running our 1000w gaming rigs, or the creation of the countless disposable plastic objects you use each day. No, simply getting rid of SUVs, especially SUVs used in scientific research, will unilaterally free us from fossil fuel dependence!

( end sarcastic rant)

seriously, DARPA is stimulating AI & robotics research into a pragmatic problem. I can't even begin to fathom your rejection of this, MERELY because they used the most pragmatic tool -- an offroad vehicle -- for the problem -- offroad travel.

No Driver Required... (5, Informative)

JakiChan (141719) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676743)

I had a chance to see the Volkswagen / Stanford entry while getting my VW serviced. That cart is pretty cool. There's a rack and a half worth of gear in the back and the shift knob has been modified to allow a robot arm to be attached. The engine is a 5 cylinder TDI and the VIN says it's a factory prototype. I heard that when the challenge is over the car will have to be destroyed since it certainly isn't US legal. And in a parody of the "Drivers Wanted" slogan it says "No Driver Required" on the side. :-) Seeing it in person certainly made waiting for my oil change fun.

On a side note...I wish they'd let more diesel cars in the country. The chase car is another Touraeg but this one is a Canadian V10 TDI. It has something like 500 lb-ft of torque but gets about the same highway mileage as my small VW does.

Re:No Driver Required... (2, Informative)

op12 (830015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676853)

Here's a picture [cnn.com] of the modified VW Touareg.

Re:No Driver Required... (5, Informative)

itistoday (602304) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676966)

I just got off the phone with a team that's there. Apparently Stanford did the best in the semifinals so far, making it through the obstacle course without hitting a single cone and cruising at a comfortable 40 mph. Carnage Mellon, a favorite last year, actually did surprisingly bad and ended up hitting a lot of cones. The University of Florida also had a good run, only nicking a cone or two. It seems like it's gonna be a worthwhile race this year. And trust me, it is really difficult to make one of these machines.

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677038)

And trust me, it is really difficult to make one of these machines.

Bah...I have three of them in my garage.

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677929)

Carnage Mellon

Was that pun intended? Given the circumstances regarding their test run, that's pretty funny.

Keep in mind that CMU has two entries this year - Sandstorm (last year's design with upgrades) and H1ghlander (still a hummer, but using different systems and software). I haven't heard anything about Sandstorm's qualification run, but their website [redteamracing.org] says "H1ghlander nudged a gate and tipped one cone."

I went to CMU, so obviously I'm cheering for them however I have a tremendous amount of respect for any of the smaller teams that don't have the massive budget that most teams have.

Re:No Driver Required... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677064)

No Driver Required

Another job lost to robots.

Re:No Driver Required... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677648)

Indian Robots.

Destroyed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677153)

I don't see why it would have to be destroyed. Even if it's not street legal, it could be carried around on a trailer, and when it's done with the challenge it'll probly end up being put on display somewhere. They may have other reasons for destroying it (especially if they lose) but I can't think of a legal reason.

Re:Destroyed? (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677301)

I can think of no reason at all. Hell, most "Science and Technology Museums" would love to have a car like that as an exhibit! And, last I heard, jet engines and a cruising speed of 716 mph wasn't street-legal anywhere, but the Thrust-SSC team didn't put their car through the trash compactor.

Correction - I can think of one reason. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677348)

If the car has IP/trade-secret technology the company needs to protect -or- technology that would violate somebody else's IP, then destroying the car may be legally necessary to protect the company. Having said that, I can't think of any IP that they could cash in on that they'd need to protect, and nobody in their right minds would risk putting unlicensed tech on something like this - the scandal if a story like that broke would far outweigh the prize on offer.

Re:Destroyed? (2, Funny)

menkhaura (103150) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677519)

And, last I heard, jet engines and a cruising speed of 716 mph wasn't street-legal anywhere

Not even in German Autobahns?

*Sigh*

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677376)

the shift knob has been modified to allow a robot arm to be attached. This may be a naive question, but wouldn't an autonomous vehicle be one of the few really good applications for an automatic transmission?

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

JakiChan (141719) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677667)


The transmission *is* automatic. However, it still has a gear select lever. The arm is so that it can do things like select a gear and go into reverse.

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677845)

Actually it is the opposite - a good application of a manual. Manual transmissions still get better milage and handle torque better than automatics, when all else is equal. A computer can shift the manual exactly when required, (in fact that is what an automatic is, a fluid computer that shifts gears) with no issue that it takes a hand that should be on the wheel or some such. So why not put in a manual transmission and get those benefits?

Note that I qualified things with when all else is equal. Autos sell better, so more money is put into their development. They have come really close to manuals in the real world. Manufactures will often just slap any manual they can make fit into a car, while designing an automatic for that car, thus you can often buy cars that do better with the automatic, but that is not a reflection on the transmission, it is a reflection on their cheapness.

Some manufactures are designing automatics that are really manuals, but the computer controls the clutch and gears, so the interface looks like an automatic. This is the best of both worlds. (But modern autos are so good anyway that I don't think this has gone into general production)

Re:No Driver Required... (3, Interesting)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677996)

BMW has a production version of a fully automatic manual transmission. It can be found in the M3 and it's called the SMG (semi-manual gearbox?). You can let the computer control all shifting or you can do it manually with paddles on the steering wheel. I drove a SMG equipped M3 and it's a strange experience. In the fully auto mode, it feels like you're driving a manual transmission but someone else is shifting for you. The shifts are a bit jerky - nowhere near as smooth as your typical automatic transmission. Ferrari and Lamborghini have this available as well, and I'm sure there are a few others.

Modern automatic transmission are very good. I have a 2003 Accord and it's the best automatic I've ever driven. Shifting is very smooth, and downshifting occurs when it is supposed to. It uses what Honda calls "Grade Logic Technology" which basically detecs when you're going uphill or downhill to determine whether to downshift or upshift much sooner than older automatic transmissions. It's also a 5 speed automatic which helps a lot. I believe Mercedes has a 7 speed automatic in their newer cars though I haven't driven them.

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

willardx (260309) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677386)

And it could be burning low-emissions, sustainable biodiesel.

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

adam1234 (696497) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677392)

the shift knob has been modified to allow a robot arm to be attached

That seems like such an ugly hack. I mean, is there a robotic foot for the gas pedal? Why not just have a humanoid robot with hands on the steering wheel? It would seem a lot more efficient to have the computer control engine shifting directly, not through a lever designed for humans.

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

dnixon112 (663069) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677632)

It's probably a lot cheaper to do it that way using a stock car. If the end result is the same, what difference does it make?

Re:No Driver Required... (1)

PW2 (410411) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677417)

On a side note...I wish they'd let more diesel cars in the country.
 
I'd hate to see more diesel cars since many people are too cheap to properly maintain the things.

Good luck contestants (4, Informative)

lightyear4 (852813) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676765)



This will be a MUCH more interesting contest if the teams do better than the last time around. (the best team only got 7 miles [imagiverse.org] out of 175 total.) Granted, even that is impressive given the circumstances.

I wish the best of luck to all of those competing.

Re:Good luck contestants (2, Interesting)

SpyPlane (733043) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676956)

I'm sure there will be more than a few teams that do better than the 7 miles last year. I'm on one of the teams and we have done many miles fully autonomous in the Anza Borrego Desert (very similar to the conditions at the DGC). The NQE is going well, on the first day many teams passed on their opportunity for their first run becaues they weren't ready. Of the teams that did do their run, about half made it and half didn't. There were a couple of highlights, one of the favorite team's vehicle flattened a whole section of haybales, and at least one team participated in a full-on car accident with one of the parked car obstacles. A couple of teams did the course perfectly at slow speed.

I recommend that if any of you follow the race to pay particular attention to those teams who aren't getting in the papers. I'm most impressed by the teams who aren't university based. Most of them have little sponsorship and are just working guys spending their *own* cash on their vehicle. I purposely didn't name names of any teams because so many posts about the DGC have become spamvertisements here on Slashdot. *cough* CMU *cough* Oops.

 

Robots (0, Offtopic)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676775)

The next competion will have the robot cars encounter fire and return fire while racing the course.

Finally... (5, Insightful)

evil agent (918566) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676776)

...we're putting the "auto" into automobile.

I for one am very happy to see this technology advancing. It's not gonna take much intelligence to make an autonomous driver better than most human drivers.

Re:Finally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677041)

It's not gonna take much intelligence to make an autonomous driver better than most human drivers
Whenever I see a story on /. about computer controlled cars, someone always chimes in that they'd never give up control of their car to a computer. But, I'd easily give up my license if it meant just half of the retards out there are no longer driving around.

Not to mention, it's not that hard for me to think of a car that can drive better than I can. Given a trouble spot ahead, the time of day, and a location, I think it'd be fairly easy for a computer to work out an alternative route than it would be for me. And the processor for determining that route, could be separate from the one that's doing the driving, meanwhile I'm stuck with just one brain that can handle at most 2 complicated tasks at a time (maybe less).

The vision system on a car would also be able to see much better during poor visibility situations (night time, rain, fog, snow). Computers could much more easily interpret images, LIDAR, RADAR and GPS data simultaneously than I could.

Personally, I can't wait until this technology filters into the mainstream. I want my self-driving car yesterday.

Decades away - here's why. (1)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677738)

Forget about all those relatively static conditions and consider this one: a 5 year-old girl runs out from behind a parked van right in front of the self-driving car. Until a lot of people are 99.99999999% sure that the car will A) stop as bloody fast as it can, B) swerve to avoid the child, or C) 'realize' that slamming into the van is actually preferable to running over the kid, nobody will let these things loose anywhere but a war zone.

Re:Decades away - here's why. (1)

evil agent (918566) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677833)

Until a lot of people are 99.99999999% sure...

Why should it be that accurate when humans are MUCH less accurate than that. Even 80% or 90% would probably be an improvement.

The big question is, if a car does hit a child, who gets sued? The software developers???

Re:Decades away - here's why. (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677869)

I would be surprised if 50% of human drivers would make any of those 3 choices fast enough...

Re:Decades away - here's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677943)

Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't think these things are just around the corner. So, I agree with your subject line. I'll even add weight to your argument. Say the speeds involved in your scenario are high enough that 99.99% of human drivers would still kill the child. Now, let's assume the self-driving car does kill her. A very safe bet would be that the self-driving car manufacturer would likely be sued. Even if they're found innocent they'd spend potentially millions in litigation in similar cases. So, an important pre-requisite to self-driving cars is some form of limited liability so that the self-driving car manufacturers are immune in scenarios in which a competent human would've performed no better.

All that being said, I'm very excited by the possibilities. And still want my self-driving, child murdering car yesterday ;)

Autonomous cars and traffic jams (4, Insightful)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677439)

I for one am very happy to see this technology advancing. It's not gonna take much intelligence to make an autonomous driver better than most human drivers.

The benefits of having cars that drive themselves will be enormous. First, these cars can be programmed to drive in a manner that conserves gasoline (e.g., no jack-rabbit starts, limit speeds to 55 mph, time their accelerations between stoplights so they don't have to come to a complete stop at every one). Second, cars that drive themselves in a rational manner -- instead of the emotional, irrational manner that people drive them -- can significantly reduce traffic jams. There is an insightful analysis of traffic jams at this page [amasci.com] which explains that jams are larely the result of people not letting other people merge into their lane coupled with the relatively-slow reaction time of humans. Cars that can synchronize their motion in relation to nearby traffic could make traffic jams a thing of the past.

Not to mention that if the car drives itself, I can read slashdot on the commute home (or watch Natalie Portman movies).

GMD

Re:Autonomous cars and traffic jams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677588)

Actually, in the far off future, if every car was computer controlled and linked to all other cars, you wouldn't even need stoplights. The cars could negotiate ahead of time which one is going to go through the intersection when. The only time they'd need to stop is for pedestrians.

Imagine you're doing a stunt, where 12 cars (3 in each direction) drive through an intersection at the same time. If you plan it out ahead of time, and everyone knows what order the cars will enter the intersection at, then you can get the traffic through that intersection without any collisions (though some cars will probably have to slow down). Computers could negotiate this at every intersection on their own. In fact, this seems like such a fun problem, that I might program a simple simulation...

Re:Autonomous cars and traffic jams (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677901)

There is an insightful analysis of traffic jams at this page which explains that jams are larely the result of people not letting other people merge into their lane coupled with the relatively-slow reaction time of humans.

The "merging traffic" analysis on that page is flawed. The "neatly merging zipper" fails to account for the fact that the newly merged cars must slow down in order to re-establish their previous following distance. Furthermore, those two animations are not actually accurate depictions of similar traffic densities with different driver behaviors. The slow one on the left represents what happens in very dense traffic. The fast one on the right represents very light traffic.

Re:Finally... (1)

Thuktun (221615) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677453)

...we're putting the "auto" into automobile.

The "auto" in "automobile" refers to the ability to propel itself, not steer or navigate itself.

Maybe ... (0, Offtopic)

linumax (910946) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676778)

Could they dance too?!!

Lame (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13676802)

I can totaly see the cord coming out the back.

You cant really call this a contest if you can put the equivilent of a Cray in the back seat.

Nothing to see here, just keep moving.

Only in America could it say *from* SUV :-) (4, Funny)

fantomas (94850) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676823)

Only in the USA could it say FROM souped-up SUVs :-)

Here in the UK it would probably be FROM a bunch of lego bricks and a clockwork motor UP TO a Sinclair C5 (or possibly an Austin Mini with an Aibo gaffa-taped in)...

Re:Only in America could it say *from* SUV :-) (3, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676968)

The challenge takes place in off road conditions. Existing vehicles like SUVs can handle the conditions where legos most likely can't. They didn't pic SUVs to pick SUVs. They picked them because they are vehivles that can handle the terrain

Re:Only in America could it say *from* SUV :-) (1)

nickj6282 (896871) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677332)

It's not just SUVs. The company I work for [oshkoshtruck.com] competes every year, and our vehicles trump any SUV in size and mobility, including the legendary Hummer H1. IIRC, our vehicle only made it five miles or so last year, but this year they've improved the tracking technology to a high degree. At test runs in March, they were able to run a MTVR through a 20 foot wide test course with various obstacles a number of times with only one error of six inches. I tried to get on the DARPA Grand Challenge team this year, but I was too late. I'm going to try again next year though!

Re:Only in America could it say *from* SUV :-) (1)

hughk (248126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677333)

You are probably wrong there. Yes, it would be down market but the UK has a very strong tradition of home built vehicles. The problem bit would be getting sponsorship for the IT and sensors.

The other bit would be finding sufficient countryside where unmanned vehicles could be let loose!!!!

So... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13676824)

If they already have automatic airplanes but no automatic cars yet, surely it means that automatic airplanes are easier to build...

so where the heck is my flying car? :P /had an entry for the 2004 //couldn't get an US citizen on the team by the deadline ///auto rejected

Re:So... (1)

hool5400 (257022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677083)

There's a hell of a lot less obstacles in the sky.

Re:So... (1)

SpyPlane (733043) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677189)

Yes, but it's also because the government REALLY wanted Autonomous air vehicles. Humvees don't make the best spy vehicle. A plane that can fly for 36 hours over a location taking pictures on the other hand is *very* handy.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677285)

es, but it's also because the government REALLY wanted Autonomous air vehicles. Humvees don't make the best spy vehicle. A plane that can fly for 36 hours over a location taking pictures on the other hand is *very* handy.

But a Tank or Hummer that can drive up to the enemy and shoot them isn't?

-nosebreaker.com

Re:So... (1)

thebigmacd (545973) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677803)

They have UAVs that shoot the enemy. Moot point.

Re:So... (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677835)

They don't want autonomous spy HMMWVs, they want autonomous 5 ton truck convoys to run supplies without worrying about casualties.

Cue KITT jokes in 5... 4... (0, Offtopic)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676827)

3... 2...

This is very cool (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676840)

The software and use of sensors, as well as the sensors themselves are being driven to places that they probably wouldn't have gone if not for this contest. Sure, the 2 million dollars is a big-ish prize, but bragging rights are bigger.

I've seen some hobby roboticists building smaller robots for a scaled down version of this that are just amazing. Even on smaller scales, this is pushing technology. The good part? Much of the hobby stuff is pretty much shared in an OSS kind of way. That means that the technology behind all this will not belong entireley to the military, and will soon find its way into our vehicles and homes.... THAT is very cool!

Re:This is very cool (1)

Azarael (896715) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677479)

What I don't understand is why so many of the entries are so huge? Something go-cart sized is going to have a lot less trouble navigating around the obsticles just because it's smaller. I mean, maybe trying to go straight to a full sized autonomous vehicle is a bit of stretch, so why try a few iterations of smaller and less complex designs?

Re:This is very cool (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677535)

Well, some entries are small, some are large. The little ones plan to go around things, the big ones have a plan that doesn't include worrying about the small stuff... same theory as people who go 4WD-ing, some have Jeep CJ5s, others have monster trucks.... The course is designed to be navigated by a standard pickup truck, so the need for huge behemouth vehicles is not absolute. Last year, there was a team that tried with a golf cart based vehicle, and even one team that tried with a motorcycle?

Re:This is very cool (1)

Azarael (896715) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677578)

Yeah, there was a motorcycle, I saw it on Discovery.

The amazing failures of AI? (5, Interesting)

Elrac (314784) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676848)

I read the reports once in a while: The winners, or close-to-finishers, are huge SUVs filled with computers and special-purpose sensory equipment. What this tells me is that today's computer technology still has trouble, in many cubic feet of space, and with practically unlimited electrical power, to find realtime solutions for a problem that even severely IQ handicapped humans handle routinely while balancing a McMeal on their knees and keeping up a cell phone conversation. I would wager that, with a fair amount of training and suitable controls, even a dog could handle the task. So...

Did AI research implode for lack of funding, or is it really that hard? Will we need Cray-like computing power to handle the sensory input quickly enough to work a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal? Or has this problem simply never been tackled by sufficiently big money? And, given the obvious military implications and a $400 Billion military budget alone, why not?

All these questions are quite serious, and I'd be interested in hearing answers.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13676969)

Short answer - AI is really that hard.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13676975)

You should check out the book "On Intelligence". It has some interesting ideas on this very topic.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (5, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676979)

YES, this task is THAT hard. If the military could simply throw money at the problem and get the solution, there would be no DARPA Grand Challenge competition at all.

The simple fact is that while we use senses in our bodies to do things, the similar versions for robots and autonomous vehicles are crude, expensive, and no-one is quite sure how to make them work the way we think they should. Computer vision is becoming a big thing, and despite the millions of people working with it or on it around the globe, there is still no standard way to immitate what the human does with one eye, let alone two. Humans have that inner-ear thing, and this tells us many things: if we are vertical, falling, rising, moving forward or sideways... Our eyes do way more than a movie camera does. People are only now beginning to understand how many ways that we analyze the visual data presented to us through our eyes.

The problems of autonomous ground vehicles are greater than that of planes because there is so much to run into, get stuck on, fall off of etc. Just writing some code to keep a toy robot from getting stuck under the kitchen table is a huge task without boatloads of sensory data and processing power.

The tasks the DARPA GC vehicles are trying to accomplish ARE that difficult.

There are two groups you can try if you are interested in finding out more about hobbyists that are working on these problems http://www.dprg.org/ [dprg.org] and http://www.seattlerobotics.org/index.php [seattlerobotics.org] . There are many others, of course, but these two are fairly active groups.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

gvc (167165) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677000)

AI has been oversold time and time again. /. participates in publicizing the extravagent predictions of AI-ers.

There has been tremendous progress in building software and hardware systems to do things that previously only humans could do well. Chess is an example; so is spam detection; so are various forms of pattern recognition.

Where AI efforts have been singularly unsuccessful at is in replacing humans entirely for complex tasks in an unpredictable envirnoment. Also to do anything resembling "understanding." Yet proposals to do just this draw the biggest military grants.

Expect the fearless predictions to continue. The grandiose proposals will continue to draw funds, but those funds will be wasted pending the occurrence of some monumental flash of insight.

This is not true AI (4, Insightful)

MOBE2001 (263700) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677018)

Did AI research implode for lack of funding, or is it really that hard?

None of the competitors are doing true AI. They are not using learning systems as far as I know. This is just good old fashioned programming where the designers/programmers try to think of all possibilities in advance. I don't see how this contest is advancing our understanding of intelligence. I think that the qualifying rules should have been more stringent and should have prohibited non-learning systems. Otherwise it's the same old traditional stuff.

Re:This is not true AI (1)

breadbot (147896) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677481)

If this were an AI contest, I would agree. But the goal is practical driving, instead, by any (software) means necessary.

AI is not the goal. (1)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677510)

The military wants autonomous vehicles. The Grand Challenge is designed to prod the private sector into trying to accomplish that task. As long as the vehicle can meet the military objectives, I don't think they care if it's as dumb as a brick. Of course, it will need significant real-time processing capabilities to succeed, that's not the same as a learning system. No AI required.

Re:This is not true AI (2, Insightful)

eclectus (209883) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677596)

I hate getting sucked in by a troll like this, but... Please, can we quit having the argument of what is the one true AI? 30 years ago, making computers understand a man-made language of written words was True AI (TM). Now its called compiler design. Later on, True AI was making expert systems that mimicked the behaviour of experts. Now it's called rules-based systems. Lets face it, many people want to define AI to be 'that which we humans can do that computers can't", which is a ever-moving definition used by critics to denounce the AI communities discoveries as insufficient, and used by AI researchers to come up with new research projects.

Arguing about the definition of AI is useless except as an exercise for philosophers. The definition of AI isn't nearly as interesting as the GOAL of AI: namely, to make artifacts that are useful, that perform functions that, if done by a human, would be considered intelligent. The pragmatic goal of this research is interesting, but the definition of the word 'Intelligence' and whether it applies to a man-made oject is not.

So let's look at this practically. We can drive a car. We can't get a computer to drive a car very well. Learning how to make a computer drive a car could be insanely great (apologies to Steve Jobs). And right now, making a vehicle that can pilot itself over a known (but non-trivial) course is pretty difficult. Thus the DARPA challenge. Once this challenge has been met, and we understand that problem space, then we can move along. Until then, this challenge is not the 'same old traditional stuff'

Re:This is not true AI (2, Insightful)

acaspis (799831) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677654)

the qualifying rules (...) should have prohibited non-learning systems.

On Judgement Day, you'll fell sorry you wrote that.

Joke aside, what's the difference between a learning system and a non-learning system ? Aren't the DARPA entries already immensely more "intelligent" than factory-floor robots operating in a predictable environment ?
Is a Bayesian algorithm a learning system ? Is it AI ?
Does AI have to be some kind of automagic algorithm that we can't analyze with the concepts of computer science ?

Re:This is not true AI (3, Insightful)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677696)

The goal of the Grand Challenge is to produce useful robots, not "true AI". The designers of the contest realize that's a badly-defined goal that is unlikely to be reached in the near future (after all, people have been failing for decades). Instead they require results and don't specify the methods. If "true AI" is the best way to achieve results, then the people who use it will win. If it is not, then requiring it would be counterproductive.

Re:This is not true AI (1)

MOBE2001 (263700) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677903)

If "true AI" is the best way to achieve results, then the people who use it will win. If it is not, then requiring it would be counterproductive.

I see what you mean but I have to disagree. By not requiring learning systems, DARPA is not encouraging progress in AI. In fact, it is discouraging it because robot people love to tinker with their robots by progamming the hehaviors themselves instead of giving the machines the ability to acquire their own behavior through trial and error. The US defence department would sell its soul for a truly intelligent system and that's what we should be after. DARPA's GC is not going to give it to them.

Instead of spending $100 billion to go back to the moon and send people to Mars, part of the money should be given to DARPA. They should increase the Grand Challenge Prize to $10 Billion, change the rules to prohibit non-learning systems and include big-city driving in the challenge. It would be the AI X-Prize, if you will. That would make it much more interesting and would advance the art tremendously , IMO. As it stands, all we're gonna get is clever engineering which we already know we're good at, but not good enough.

Re:This is not true AI (1)

Arakyd (302801) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677898)

At least one team (Stanford [stanford.edu] ) is using learning algorithms. Most (all?) the vehicles sense the environment and build some sort of model of it - in other words they learn about the environment as they go, and they make decisions based on what they learn. Machine learning and other AI techniques can be used in the creation of the control software, even when machine learning is not being done during the race. In short, don't assume that understanding is not being advanced just because yours is not.

Re:This is not true AI (1)

MythoBeast (54294) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677930)

You are correct. What they're designing is the ability to create a three dimensional understanding of the world in our minds based on perceptual input. They're also designing an ability to cross-reference the vehicles capabilities with this internal map in order to identify a navigable path from one place to another. These are things that we take for granted, but without which our intelligence wouldn't be able to operate.

Before you can understand something you have to be able to perceive it, or at least model it in your mind. They aren't creating true AI, but they are developing the technologies which are the necessary precursors to AI.

And, no, a soccer mom with a big mac on her knee talking on a cell phone couldn't traverse the course that they'll be on. With gulleys, trees, and other obstacles in the way, it's a little more complicated than that. Try offroading yourself some time.

Re:This is not true AI (1)

MOBE2001 (263700) | more than 9 years ago | (#13678010)

And, no, a soccer mom with a big mac on her knee talking on a cell phone couldn't traverse the course that they'll be on.

IMO, a soccer mom could do MUCH better than that, after proper training and sufficient practice in desert terrains.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677020)

a problem that even severely IQ handicapped humans handle routinely while balancing a McMeal on their knees and keeping up a cell phone conversation


Driving across 150 miles of roadless, obstacle-ridden desert is not something most humans do, or even attempt. Don't be so sure that "even severely IQ handicapped humans" could handle it routinely.


Will we need Cray-like computing power to handle the sensory input quickly enough to work a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal?


Yes, because being able to take two dimensional sensory input and use it to construct an acccurate three-dimensional representation of the local surroundings, and then plan a viable route through those surroundings, is not a trivial task. People do it pretty well (at least when on foot), but then they've had billions of years of development time put into their massively parallel computational hardware. Computers can do it too, and eventually that "Cray-like computing power" will be squeezed down into smaller boxes, but it isn't an easy problem.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

MOBE2001 (263700) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677141)

Driving across 150 miles of roadless, obstacle-ridden desert is not something most humans do, or even attempt. Don't be so sure that "even severely IQ handicapped humans" could handle it routinely.

I think that driving around a big city (New York, London, Paris, etc...) is much harder than driving around the desert, orders of magnitude harder, IMO. Especially during rush hour.

Yes, because being able to take two dimensional sensory input and use it to construct an acccurate three-dimensional representation of the local surroundings, and then plan a viable route through those surroundings, is not a trivial task.

That's the CMU team's approach. Rodney Brooks (MIT AI Lab Director) has shown with his subsumption architecture that this is precisely how not to do it. The coupling between sensors and effectors should be as short as possible, especially when your processors (neurons) are very slow. In fact, as Brooks pointed out in an interview with Edge.org, the connectivity diameter of the brain is no more than 5 or 6 neurons, that is, fron sensor layer to motor layer. Not nearly enough time to do the sort of serial processing needed to construct a 3-D model of the environment in real time. The brain is a reactive system, more than anything else. It learns to react appropriately from experience.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677687)

I think that driving around a big city (New York, London, Paris, etc...) is much harder than driving around the desert, orders of magnitude harder, IMO. Especially during rush hour.

I think that most people who actually have experience doing both would disagree with you. Those cities have been highly engineered to make driving in them as easy as possible, which is why millions of people do it every day. The desert is a very hostile environment that is capable of physically destroying a car if it isn't driven very carefully. IIRC, in last year's Grand Challenge there were sections where the organizers had actually included deliberately constructed obstacles. That's easy to understand, since the military minds that designed the Challenge expect that enemies will do their best to make life difficult for them.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677974)

[...] this is precisely how not to do it. The coupling between sensors and effectors should be as short as possible, especially when your processors (neurons) are very slow.

Good advice for designing a brain made of neurons, but not good advice for a system based on today's computers. Neurons are massively parallel and not very fast; computers are lightning fast and not very parallel. Attempting to implement brain-like processing on today's computer architectures is an exercise in futility (as decades of AI research has proven). The Grand Challenge teams are using a completely reasonable approach to designing systems based on the computers available today.

If mimicking the brain is your goal, then a completely different computer architecture is needed. You need a large memory with embedded massively parallel processing units. You need a non-von Neumann architecture to eliminate the von Neumann bottleneck. Only after this brain-like computer architecture is developed will we be able to implement true AI.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

JoelMeow (740794) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677063)

Controlling a car is not particularly hard. Knowing where to drive it is also not all that hard when you know what the terrain looks like.

In my opinion, by far the hardest part of this challenge is in the sensing. None of the sensors we currently have for robots come close to giving us the same level of useful information we get from our eyes and visual cortex. These robots need to determine what the terrain looks like from noisy sensor data, and they need to do it fast enough and for a far enough distance that they actually have time to do something about it at the speeds they're travelling. That's why it's hard.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

gcatullus (810326) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677429)

Off-road driving is more difficult in that there is no regular terrain pattern to follow. If you were on a paved road, or even a cart path, the task would be much easier. Off-road you have to gauge the depth of ruts and holes, the softness of sand, the grade, random obstacles, etc. I agree that the sensing of these things is probably the number one problem, but it is no easy task to deal with them once they have been sensed.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

SpyPlane (733043) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677115)

Yeah buddy, it's *that* hard. If you don't think so, please tell me how (using a laser or camera) to have a computer tell you the difference between a canyon (no laser return), a water puddle (no laser return, reflection on the camera), and the sky (ie: going through whoops and the vehicle is looking straight up). Yes, a gyro can help you with the latter. Our mind can figure out a lot of things that just take too much time to do with computers. I can see a puddle and look to either side of it to see how the terrain dips, then analyzing the width and length of the puddle, I can guess if it is shallow enough to be crossed. All of this can be thought of in 4 or 5 seconds in my mind (just fast enough to make the decision before hitting it at 20mph), but a supercomputer doesn't stand a chance.

Plus, before mentioning anything about difficulty, try driving offroad first. Our team would have been done 8 months ago if we were sticking to paved roads. Personally I drive all the time in Baja, and going any faster than about 35 or 40 mph scares the crap out of me.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

GulagMoosh (806406) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677129)

The task is actually quite diffult and not entirely related to AI . The first major problem is getting the appropriate algorithms to acquire, interpret, and produce results about the environment around the vehicle. The human brain and ocular system do that quite well but the algorithms produced (thus far) are not nearly as efficient. Many of them are very specialized and computationally intensive. Consider just obstacle detection. You need to produce some 3D mapping of the environment; bundle that knowledge into a series of objects/forms; decide which, if any, of those are impediments to the desired course of travel by determining where the obstacles are in the world or relative to the vehicle; and finally make a control decision to drive the vehicle. Add in that the sensing technology usually isn't that robust, manueverable, or designed to operate in extreme environments. Cameras become useless in the dark, when dust coats the lens or enclosure window, or in rain/show. Ladars (laser range finders) have difficulty in dust, snow, rain, and some experience "blindness" in direct sunlight. They also fail to return results for some materials such as bouncing infinitely off water. Radars are not reliable against some surfaces or in all conditions. So to produce reliable inputs the algorithms have to choose the right sensor at the right time and/or fuse that information appropriately. Not a trivial problem. A great deal of progress has been made for specialized situations but it is nowhere near the reliability of a human (or even the dog.)

The amazing limits of AI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677349)

The problem is noise (and not in just a white sort of way). The real world partialy gets around this by using the redundency that's inherent in the world to pull out useful patterns.*

The other way is limiting the scope of the problem by confining the problem to the essentials. This is partially why you have a kneecap. It makes solving the walking problem easier.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677210)

The winners, or close-to-finishers, are huge SUVs filled with computers and special-purpose sensory equipment.

You have to realize these are general computing components programmed to do specific task. Most design stage hardware is large for that very fact its being designed. Once the exact software and hardware needs are finalized a production version could shrink this down to much small size, and given moorse law it will be small enough to fit into a smallest car in no time.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (3, Informative)

blackcoot (124938) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677300)

I wouldn't say that this is an amazing failure of AI so much as an amazing failure to realistically estimate the real difficulty of AI and the mess of systems integration problems that accompany robotics (I happen to work for a company that's part of a GC team and specializes in autonomous robotics). Firstly, sensors suck. We are just now barely approaching video sensors that have the same resolution as the human eye, but at 9+megapixels a piece, you have an insane amount of numbercrunching to do before you've reduced a frame into useful information. Now repeat that at 60Hz and you now have an appreciation for where a large portion of the computing power is used. Now take three such cameras for multi-baseline stereo and terrain classification and you're talking 1.6 gigapixels per second that you have to process. You also have to find machines which can sustain 3.2GB/s or 4.8GB/s transfer rates (depending on whether you use YUV 4:2:2 or RGB 8 bit per channel imagery). Now toss in a couple LADARs scanning at 100Hz, 360 x 16 bit samples per scan line, a bunch of RADARs operating at 30Hz, an IMU, two GPS units (one for the IMU, one for you to use)... you begin to see some of the problems. You need all those different sensing modalities because the fundamental truth of sensors is that they lie. You can do things to get reasonable estimates up to some confidence, but realistically what you're seeing are random values near the real values. Sensors fail, so you need back-up systems, and some way of determining which sensors failed (or rather, a way to change your beliefs about which sensors are reliable).

In short, the classical AI part (most folks seem to use D* + reactive controls) is not where 90+% of the processing bandwidth is used, you need that power for sensing and for guaranteeing that your control loops cycle at at least some minimum frequency to guarantee safe operations.

That said, there's a lot the gov't can do to make this problem a lot easier to solve. Standard bus designs (like FireWire) which can power most of the sensors on the bus are a really great start. Open protocols from the wire up are also important. A push towards integrating more intelligence in the sensors (embedded FPGAs which allow you to do optional processing on the raw signals coming in) can help quite a bit. Research into high-speed busses that allow you to pretend you have a shared memory multiproc will also help a lot. Finding a way to reliably and efficiently move processing algorithms into FPGAs or microcontrollers will also help to distribute the workload and reduce overall bandwidth and processing requirements. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of fundamental algorithm work to be done before you get to that point, but as certain algorithms becomes standardized this will become a lot more feasible.

Holistic approach. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677540)

"In short, the classical AI part (most folks seem to use D* + reactive controls) is not where 90+% of the processing bandwidth is used, you need that power for sensing and for guaranteeing that your control loops cycle at at least some minimum frequency to guarantee safe operations."

The solution to the problem is going to be the adoption of a holistic approach. Remember the human body isn't just a bunch of parts all flying in formation, but one of the most integrated systems around. Everything is going to have to be considered, right down to the role that the frame plays in solving all the other problems.

--
The "are you a script" word for today is distills.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

meadandale (605319) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677355)

If you want to know why AI is hard, read the book Blink [amazon.com] .

It turns out that most of the decisions involved in driving a car, as with many aspects of daily life, are handled predominantly by the adaptive unconscious. In fact, if we had to consciously interpret all of the sensory input that we need while doing something as complicated as driving a vehicle travelling at high speeds, none of us would likely be up to the task. How often have you been driving and you can't remember the last few miles that you traveled? It happens all the time and it shows that you are not actively using your conscious mind to make the decisions required to steer the vehicle.

The fallacy, as I see it, in current AI research, is that it is approaching the problem using the conscious mind approach which even humans can't do quickly. When they can teach a computer to 'thin slice' like our adaptive unconscious does, then we'll be on to something.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677398)

There are several challenges of AI.
First - nature versus technology - remember there are potentially millions of years of evolution to result in the life that is on this planet. Including us, and our frontal lobe. Nature has found one of the best ways to produce
'intelligent life' do you think we can reproduce it all that easily?

Second - understanding the human brain - The only template we have is our own brain as to how cognative thinking can exist. Yet, despite all the psychologists and biologists, there is not even a collective agreement upon the most basic of concepts.

So, right now, it is mainly shots in the dark, with technology that isn't there yet.

In addition, I am currently writting a book, that will be out in a year or two (takes time to do all the research) based on a hypothysis I have on Artifical Intellegence and basically how meaningless.

A brief explination at a macroscopic view.
In order to produce a brain, a huge network of information much be able to be connected. Take our brain for example, we have 5 primary senses, with nearly countless sensors. Each of these are processed in seperate areas and then that information is tied to the smallest part of our brain, the reptilian cortex. This allows us to 'live' and 'move' in our world. Then that information has even more complex area which is where enourmous calculations are performed automatically, such as the hundreds of calculations required to shoot a basket ball. Finally, the next layer is the frontal lobe, were we become truelly 'aware' and can control these lower levels and make rational thought. On top of all that we have a huge memory that is very fast. Remember, you don't forget things, you just have such an enourmous amount of clout inbetween anymore that you lack the keys for direct access.

We have found carbon based memory is fast, tiny, and guess what basically what we have. carbon based processors will be the same and so on. By the time we are done we will simply have reconstructed another human. Which is exactly what happens when my sperm connects with my wife's egg. Except, it is more pleasurable, and results some odd biological functions in my wife that results in pain for her. Still we would just have another human.

Couldn't we simply fiddle with the genetics, and produce the results we want? While at it, produce cures for everyone?

Granted the book goes into much deeper thought, and handles the exceptions to what I said above. So don't get out of whack.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (2, Informative)

Bob3141592 (225638) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677483)

What this tells me is that today's computer technology still has trouble, in many cubic feet of space, and with practically unlimited electrical power, to find realtime solutions for a problem that even severely IQ handicapped humans handle routinely while balancing a McMeal on their knees and keeping up a cell phone conversation. I would wager that, with a fair amount of training and suitable controls, even a dog could handle the task. So...

The AI systems are competing against 500 million years of evolutionary development. The computer systems being used are serial processors optimized for problems of a very different nature. Just trying to explicitely state the problems of what an autonomous vehicle is supposed to do in sufficient detail is daunting, let alone trying to solve those problems.

A human spends years as an infant trying to sort out how the world works, and decades after that puzzling out the details. And despite all the experience we have with out own thinking and observing others, we still don't know what intelligence is about or how it works.

Yes, it is a very hard problem

Estimates on brain power (5, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677690)

There are some interesting estimates out on the web of how fast the human brain can process data [merkle.com] . Current estimates are between 10^13 and 10^16 operations per second, which would put the upper limit at about 10 giga mips (remember, 'mips' is a million instructions per second). If we assume the brain handles 'reals' rather than integer values for data, then this translates to about 10 peta flops.


In comparison, the world's fastest supercomputer (BlueGene/L) is rated at a maximum of 183,500 gigaflots, which is about 0.2 peta flops, or one fiftieth of the maximum speed of the human brain.


Now, you don't NEED the full processing power of the human brain in order to drive. That's not my point. My point is that a car-load of computer parts, at the current level of technology, is probably going to drive about as well as a Horseshoe Crab. I'm actually very impressed that developers have actually got as far as they have, as they're very unlikely to be using state-of-the-art technology for this, most are probably using pile-of-PC architectures, not much more than some webcams for vision and basic motors for the robot linkage, most likely continuous for power - steppers have vastly superior accuracy but have no force behind them.


You also have to look at the power cleaning systems they need - car batteries are NOT smooth and car electrical systems are typically pretty rough. On the other hand, computers need power that is spike-free and ADCs (analog-to-digital converters) rely on a steady reference voltage to be able to do anything useful. A noisy power system would be Bad News for a self-operating vehicle. Oh, and computers don't do well when hot, but air conditioning units - particularly if they switch on and off - are going to add some serious noise to the power.


Whoever builds a car that can go a decent distance is worthy of vast respect and awe, because there are some massive technical problems that require ingenious hacking of mechanical, electrical and microelectronic systems to operate in some pretty harsh environments.


I do think DARPA would be foolish to end the contest if there is a winner this year - rather, they should extend the challenge. Have the vehicles go through a wider range of terrains, as a multi-stage rally, perhaps, with cars who succeed in the desert then having to navigate through a forest, swamps, along the tops of snow-covered mountains - pretty much any terrain that a vehicle could realistically encounter if used for military missions.


If DARPA did that, and the contestents succeeded, then (and pretty much only then) would DARPA have a general-purpose robotic vehicle they could throw into any arena that would be hazardous for humans under combat conditions. Why stop when you have something that could have made things easier three years ago had it existed, but which may be useless in a scenario three years from now, when the dangers may be completely different?

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677777)

Obviously you're not a programmer. The key hard part is image processing/sensor fusion. It's amazing how people take for granted their senses and how the process their environment. To write software to know where it is, where it wants to go and what is in between that interfaces with sensors that can reliably provide enough data to accomplish the task, that IS hard.

Re:The amazing failures of AI? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677889)

"even a dog could handle the task"

But how would he reach the pedals? Sorry, just kidding.
My dog does it all the time. I just put a hunk of wood under the gas pedal and drop a brick on top.
He only needs about half throttle to cruise for cats anyway.

HiP

Axion twin power activate! (3, Interesting)

Tom Courtenay (638139) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676869)

My money is on the team that spent all of their money on identical twin spokesmodels [axionracing.com]

Yes I know, shamelessy stolen from Cruel.

Re:Axion twin power activate! (1)

HokieVT (859712) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677025)

Everyone should download and watch that video. Listening to the twins read terms like "autonomous" off of cue cards is priceless. I especially like the term "electronical".

zzzhhhwweeewww zzzhhhwweeewww (1, Funny)

menorikey (915085) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676875)

I don't care if these vehicles can drive by themselves 2 miles or 20, just make sure they come with a red LED on the front that alternates back and forth and make it say "right away Michael" everytime I get in the car.

Video of MITRE entry (4, Informative)

eludom (83727) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676887)

FYI there is a 5min introductory video clip of the the MITRE entry here:

      http://www.mitre.org/tech/meteor/ [mitre.org]

I saw it a few months ago doing it's thing around the
parking lot. It will be interesting to see how they
do on a live course.

Re:Video of MITRE entry (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677184)

Apparently the MITRE team had a somewhat disappointing first day, like many contestants. It's not necessarily over though, as the judges choose the vehicles based on what they think will work the best, not necessiarly the vehicles that did the best in the NQE.

Website to Track Race (4, Informative)

robyn217 (575679) | more than 9 years ago | (#13676960)

Yeah, I just hope someone can finish the race. It looks like the best site out there to track the race is GrandChallenge.org [grandchallenge.org] . They have team write-ups and blogs.

I know my money is on Austin Robot Technology. Vehicle "(Not Available)" sounds like it'll be a real winner. lol!

-robyn [gearlog.com]

I am amazed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677087)

Holy shit! Someone actually submitted a story with a well-written summary, a few good links that can withstand a slashdotting, and most amazingly, they didn't assume that we've all heard about tihs before! This is surely a sign of the apocalypse!

In other, somewhat related, news (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677101)

The driverless busses [timesonline.co.uk] are coming!

Sebastian Thrun/Stanford (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13677112)

http://www.popsci.com/popsci/science/09a7dd9a0cc36 010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd/3.html [popsci.com]

"So Thrun pioneered what's known as probabilistic robotics. He programs his machines to adjust their responses to incoming data based on the probability that the data are correct. In last year's DARPA race, many derailments occurred when a 'bot's sensors provided faulty information, causing it to, for example, mistake a tumbleweed for a rock and stop in its tracks. Thrun's car didn't go off the cliff mentioned above, because its software ignored the bad GPS data (which it judged to have a significant probability of error) and responded instead to the more accurate laser readings. (If the car hadn't made the right choice, Thrun or a colleague would have hit two giant red buttons next to the wheel to disable the AI.)

By early July, Thrun's car had navigated 88 miles of last year's route. It would have logged more, but the pace car got a flat tire after its (human) driver failed to avoid a bump in the road."

What about negative space? (4, Insightful)

Druox (911165) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677160)

Has any of the contestents overcome the obstacle of negative space (i.e. a cliff, a sudden drop, a crater)?
Its easier to detect something that is there like a bale of hay by radar, but what about something that isn't there (isn't an object sticking out of the ground, in y+ axis)? If not, I can see alot of Wile E. Coyote incidents with these cars flying off cliffs.
(**poof**)

Re:What about negative space? (1)

ki4iib (902605) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677461)

Easy. SUVs with frickin' rangefinding/mapping lasers on their heads.

No, really.

Go Team ENSCO! (2, Informative)

JMUChrisF (188300) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677177)

www.teamensco.com

Good luck to my former co-workers who are working with Ensco on the project. From what I hear, they're loving being out there and having a great week!

How about a Midget? (5, Funny)

spicydragonz (837027) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677459)

Remember the famouse automaton Mephisto from the 19th century that claimed to be a chess playing robot.
http://www.angelfire.com/games/SBChess/automaton.h tml [angelfire.com]
I think I could hide a midget inside an SUV with enough computer looking doohickies to make a cool $2mill.

geekiest vacation ever (1)

blackcoot (124938) | more than 9 years ago | (#13677474)

my company is sponsoring a team and happened to book some extra hotel rooms, so i'm going off to watch the race (instead of gambling away my soul in vegas). bunch of other guys are going from work as well -- should be a blast.
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