November 1, 2007 (1600 hrs), VICTORVILLE, CA. Earlier in the day DARPA announced the finalists. As expected we were not in the list of 11 that made the cut.I have not kept up with the performance of other teams. My focus has been on moving our team forward.
But based on what we hear, it looks like we went a bit too aggressive on Area B. Our goal was to finish that area, just as we had finished the other two. We knew we could not complete one segment of Area B, and worked on developing the capabilities needed. Had we left that capabilitiy alone, CajunBot would have just reached that troublesome area and stopped. That could just have us qualified for the finals. The most overriding requirement for any vehicle to be in the challenge is SAFETY. By going aggressive we ended up violating that requirement, and getting knocked out all together.
Almost a year ago when I was getting the team together, the intent was to shoot for a win. We had already been in two challenges. In the last two challenges, we knew going in that we did not have the chance to win. We were quite happy being in the challenge. It was not the same this time. The excitement of being in the challenge had worn out. Besides, based on past experience we knew we had the capability to win. In the past we just did not shoot high enough.
We took the neighborhood scenario of Area B as a capability needed to win. Besides, since we completed the other two areas, it made sense that we complete this scenario as well.
It turns out that some of the teams that qualified for the final did not even reach the neighborhood scenario in Area B. To their credit, they were safe. If their vehicle had a chance of hitting something it would simply stop. That’s how CajunBot would have been had we not taken the neighborhood scenario seriously.
I just hope that the tests DARPA created truly reflect the actual challenge. It would be a shame if they mellow down the challenge so that someone can win.
– Arun Lakhotia