June 22, 2007

Team Case qualifies for site visit by organizers of U.S. Department Of Defense Robotic Ground Vehicle Competition

Site visit will demonstrate capability of Case Western Reserve University's DEXTER to DARPA Urban Challenge organizers

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Team Case's DEXTER has met the criteria needed for a site visit that will test basic navigation and traffic as the next step towards competing in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge. The site visit will take place Friday, June 22, at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, about 45 northwest of Columbus.

The DARPA Urban Challenge is the third in a series of competitions DARPA has held to foster the development of autonomous robotic ground vehicle technology for use on the battlefield. The 2007 event will feature autonomous ground vehicles executing simulated military supply missions safely and effectively in a mock urban area. Safe operation in traffic is essential to U.S. military plans to eventually use autonomous ground vehicles to conduct dangerous missions on the battlefield. The race will take place on November 3, 2007 at an undisclosed location in the western United States. DARPA will give $2 million, $1 million and $500,000 awards to the top three finishers that complete the course within the six-hour time limit.

"We have spent the past several months refining our vehicle, and the site visit represents a significant milestone in our quest to compete for cash prizes in the Urban Challenge," said Wyatt Newman, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Case School of Engineering and faculty team leader of Team Case. "We are proud to be a part of such a great event and excited about the opportunity to help create a technology that could save the lives of American men and women on the battlefield."

Leading up to the inspection, Team Case has met a series of milestones established by DARPA. The first milestone was the submission of a video to demonstrate the vehicle's ability to satisfy key safety, navigation and traffic criteria. Next was a technical paper that detailed the architecture, vehicle design and theory behind operation, major subsystem and vehicle behavior. The site visit will test the robot's basic navigation and traffic ability in a setting similar to the competition. Teams that pass the site visit will continue on to the National Qualification Event (NQE), where the advanced traffic and navigation criteria will be subjected to further testing leading up to the main event. The NQE field will be announced on Friday, August 10.

DEXTER is a novel combination of a road-tested vehicle and sensors, paired with a biologically-inspired approach to environmental perception, humanistic driving instincts and vehicle control. Robotic vehicles competing in the Urban Challenge will attempt to complete a 60-mile course through traffic in less than six hours operating under their own computer-based control, and the three fastest finishers will receive cash prizes. To succeed, vehicles must obey traffic laws while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles.

DARPA has sponsored two previous Grand Challenge competitions. The first was held in March 2004 and featured a 142-mile desert course. Fifteen autonomous ground vehicles attempted the course, and no vehicle finished. In the 2005 Grand Challenge, four autonomous vehicles successfully completed a 132-mile desert route under the required 10-hour limit, and DARPA awarded a $2 million prize to "Stanley" from Stanford University.

Team Case is sponsored by several individuals and businesses, including ENSCO, Inc., a well-established engineering consulting and contracting firm based in Falls Church, Va. DEXTER was designed originally by ENSCO and placed 6th in DARPA's Desert Challenge in 2005 and has been lent to Case. Other sponsors include Goodyear, the George Gund Foundation, the MathWorks, National Instruments, Nordson Corporation, Novatel, Ridge Road Auto Parts and QNX Software Systems; Case alumni Greg Glosser of Glosser Manufacturing Co., and Larry Enterline; and Sam Bell of the Lusty Wrench, Michael Karcic of Accurate Tech Inc., Richard Liu, Leslie Chung, Meredith Seikel and the Tien Family Trust.

For more information contact Laura M. Massie at 216.368.4442

More information about Team Case can be found at urbanchallenge.case.edu. Details about the DARPA Grand Challenge are available at www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge.

Posted by: Paula Baughn, June 22, 2007 11:04 AM | News Topics: Case School of Engineering, Faculty, Research

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