Lotus Elise

Now this is what we call an upgrade: NC State University's Insight Racing team has scored a new set of wheels for the upcoming 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge. The team's Chevrolet Suburban, dubbed "Desert Rat" for the last DARPA challenge, which sent vehicles across the Mojave in the final event, will sit this one out. Instead, Insight will field "Lone Wolf," the new Lotus Elise which was presented to them by the automaker last week. In addition to the car, Insight will be receiving support from Lotus Engineering, who will help transform the sports car into the autonomous machine it needs to be to make it through the preliminary rounds and into the final Urban Challenge event. That task is made even more difficult when you consider that an Elise offers a fraction of the on-board space that was available in the Suburban. Expect to see plenty of innovation as they cram all the required technology into the Lotus' compact package.

The cruelest irony of all is that the Insight Racing team has to rig the Elise -- a driver's car if there ever was one -- to be completely driverless. We have a feeling that, given the chance, this is one instance where the engineering students would gladly forego the high-technology and get behind the wheel themselves. The 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge finale is scheduled for November 2007.

[Sources: NC State Technician Online & PhysOrg.com]