Team CajunBot gets position in next leg of Urban Challenge

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Advocate Acadiana bureau
August 10 2007

LAFAYETTE — Team CajunBot got the word Thursday it will be headed to California in October for the next leg of the Urban Challenge competition.

The competition is held by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as a way to spur development of autonomous vehicles for military use.

Team CajunBot consists mostly of University of Louisiana at Lafayette students.

The previous two challenges — in which Team CajunBot has also competed — were held in the desert.

This year the challenge will be held in an urban environment in order to simulate the type of terrain American forces will encounter overseas.

Team CajunBot is one of only 36 teams — out of an original 89 — that have made the cut. DARPA officials have watched each team put its vehicle through tests in order to make cuts.

Other teams are a mix of universities private companies or public-private teams.

They include Stanford University MIT and Princeton University.

The team gathered Thursday on campus to watch a Web cast of a news conference at which DARPA Director Tony Tether announced which teams would be moving forward.

Unfortunately when Tether said a screen to his right showed the successful team names that screen couldn’t be seen on the Web cast.

“Where’s the list?” someone asked.

“We were on there right?” someone else said.

After a few nervous moments the team got word and relaxed shaking hands.

The semifinals and finals will be held in Victorville Calif. at the former George Air Force Base. The Army uses the base to train its troops for urban operations.

During the event the robotic vehicles have to — without human interaction — drive the streets obeying traffic laws while performing maneuvers such as merging into moving traffic navigating traffic circles and avoiding moving obstacles.

The field this year is strong Tether said.

Of the five teams that finished the last Grand Challenge only one of those teams ranked in the top five of the semifinalists. That was Team Gray a Metairie-based team formed by private companies.

The first team to make it through the 60-mile course within the six-hour time limit will be awarded $2 million.

Second and third place carry $1 million and $500 000 prizes respectively.

The semifinals will be held from Oct. 26 through Oct. 31. The top 20 finishers will be invited to participate in the Nov. 3 finals.

At past challenges Team CajunBot was a fan favorite one night hosting a crawfish boil for other teams.

©The Advocate
August 10 2007

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