MIT entering driverless Land Rover LR3 in DARPA Urban Challenge

The 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge is mere weeks away, and the top tier teams are readying to do battle on a yet-to-be-disclosed course in Victorville, CA. The event will take place November 3rd at the former George Air Force Base, and we'll have our own celebrity blogger, John McElroy, on hand to take pics and report back. Though many teams are entered, a select few from major universities are considered serious contenders for the $2 million grand prize. They include last year's winner Stanford who is entering a Volkswagen Passat Wagon named 'Junior', perennial runner-up powerhouse Carnegie Mellon featuring a driverless Chevy Tahoe, and the MIT team that's going upscale with an autonomous Land Rover LR3.

Land Rover decided to show off the entrant today releasing this pic of the vehicle in all its geeky glory. Though the DARPA Grand Challenge event is meant to showcase technologies that could ultimately lead to autonomous vehicles on public roads, one look at the number of sensors on the MIT entrant would likely make a Land Rover designer pass out and a potential customer run for the hills. Equipped with GPS, the MIT LR3 uses LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) range finders to whisker its way through uncharted environments. Until all this equipment can be scaled down for mass consumption, these vehicles will remain as merely impractical proof that safe and reliable autonomous driving is at least possible.
Before the event takes place two weekends from now, those teams that have made it this far will participate in a National Qualification Event this weekend to further weed out the autonomous wannabes from the legitimate contenders. We fully expect Standford's 'Junior', Carnegie Mellon's Tahoe and the MIT LR3 to make it through to the final event where Mr. McElroy will be ready cover the final outcome.

[Source: Land Rover]



IRVINE, Calif., Oct 22, 2007- Land Rover has joined forces with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by donating a Land Rover LR3 that has been built to be fully autonomous so it can take part in the forthcoming 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.

MIT has completely modified the LR3, a vehicle already packed with technology, so that without human driver assistance or remote control, the vehicle is able to drive itself and perform simple tasks such as avoiding obstacles and merging into moving traffic.

The LR3 uses state-of-the-art hardware to view the environment and to track its own motion while driving on major roads or moving through cities. It is equipped with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) range finders with vision sensors in order to view the environment, helping it avoid obstacles that might get in its way. In order to track its progress along the roads, the vehicle uses a combination of GPS (Global Positioning System) and INS (Inertial Navigation System).

With this combination of technology, the vehicle can locate itself within half of a meter anywhere in the world, giving it the ability to stay on road at all times. By grouping these technologies, the LR3 can navigate itself while avoiding anything that might get in its way.

The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Urban Challenge is an annual competition where several autonomous vehicles, like this specialized LR3, compete against each other in several different rounds.

After successfully completing the qualifying round in early August, Team MIT and the LR3 have been invited back to compete in the challenging semi-final round taking place on October 26-31, with the goal of making it to the final competition.

The DARPA Urban Challenge final event will be held in Victorville, CA on November 3, 2007. During the competition, the vehicles will need to traverse through a 60-mile mock city course within six hours, and will be challenged with tasks while completing a stipulated route. Some of these tasks include executing simulated supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding various obstacles - all without a driver or via remote control.

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