The race, which takes robotic vehicles approximately 150 miles across the Mojave Desert, is a sequel to the first Grand Challenge, which was held in 2004. In the first race, no vehicle won the prize, and the best-performing vehicle reached just 7 ½ miles. Vehicles in the race are autonomous, meaning that robots must make their own decisions, and no instructions from humans may be provided to the vehicle during the race. To be eligible for the prize a robot must be the first to complete the course, and must finish in less than 10 hours.
To be selected for the semi-final, vehicles had to navigate a narrow 200 meter course at speed, avoiding randomly-placed obstacles and navigating based on satellite data. Team leader Paul Perrone said “Our vehicle performed well beyond expectations during the site trials, and we think that our results place us among the top teams invited to the race.”
DARPA upped the stakes in this year’s event by doubling the prize to $2 million dollars. After the first competition, the increased purse and growing public interest fueled hundreds of aspirants to vie for a berth in 2005. DARPA winnowed the field to 118 teams awarded site visits. Team Jefferson was selected from this field as one of the vehicles with the greatest potential to compete in the race.
DARPA, a forward-looking research agency funded by the Pentagon, sponsors the Grand Challenge to foster innovation in robotic vehicles that could be used in combat. The Pentagon aims to have one-third of all ground vehicles unmanned by 2015.
About Team Jefferson
Team Jefferson’s founding sponsor is Perrone Robotics Inc. (perronerobotics.com). Other sponsors include Assured Technologies, Inc. (assuredtech.com), CSI Wireless (csi-wireless.com), SICK (sick.com), Bodine Electric (bodine-electric.com), EATON (eaton.com), Sandtec Sand Rails (http://www.sandtec.com), Omnistar (omnistar.com), and M.I.T.S Corporation (mitscorp.com).
Further information is available at http://www.teamjefferson.com, or by contacting Mike Woosley at (443) 255-6034.