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CajunBot heads into final day of qualifying round

October 30 2007
The Daily Advertiser


Team CajunBot had another successful day in Victorville Calif.

Though the autonomous Jeep Wrangler had previous problems in one test area today it interacted with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s cars with no obvious problems.

If the vehicle passes its final day of qualifying for the Department of Defense’s DARPA Grand Challenge it will become one of 20 finalists in a $2 million city street competition of driverless vehicles. The finalists will be announced Thursday.

Read more about CajunBot in Wednesday's The Daily Advertiser.

CajunBot continues in qualifying

Finalists will be named Thursday

October 29 2007
The Daily Advertiser

VICTORVILLE Calif. - After a few roadblocks during Saturday's qualifying round of the Department of Defense's 2007 Urban Challenge Team CajunBot spent the night in the field. The sleepless night paid off Sunday.

The 12:30 p.m. qualifying round Sunday had CajunBot II finishing 13 laps without swapping paint with the five other moving vehicles on the track - a feat not many bots were able to perform.

"These guys are amazing " Dr. Arun Lakhotia team leader said in a news release. "Some of them are working on no sleep and others only got about two hours of sleep last night. CajunBot II's great run today is a result of their continuous dedication to this project."

On Saturday the bot struggled with a course of intersection right-of-ways and eventually paused.

The team packed into a makeshift lab - inside the trailer that transported CajunBot II - to analyze video from the bot. Adjustments were made and on Saturday the bot performed almost flawlessly.

Bright and early this morning CajunBot II will have to park and perform other driving maneuvers in its last qualifying event.

Finalists are expected to be announced Thursday. The top 20 teams from the 35 semifinalists will compete against one another on Nov. 3.

Bots will have to travel in a city setting - obeying all California traffic laws - at the former George Air Force Base.

The first team to finish the race will receive $2 million with second receiving $1 million and third $500 000.

This is the third Grand Challenge put forth by the DOD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Team CajunBot has participated in all three races.

CajunBot ready for challenge

October 28 2007
The Daily Advertiser
Team competes with 34 others for $2M award
From staff reports

Qualifying for the Department of Defense's race of unmanned vehicles began Friday with UL's CajunBot team among the 35 contenders.

Qualifying continues through Wednesday.

Teams that move through the qualifying round will be eligible to participate in the $2 million Urban Challenge on Saturday at a military training base in Victorville Calif.
The qualifying event officially kicked off Friday at the Southern California Logistics Airport.

The race is sponsored by the DoD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - DARPA.

"This is all about saving lives " said Tony Tether DARPA director.

"And even if you don't get the trophy you are all still winners for having been here in the first place."

UL's team were finalists for the challenge in 2004 and 2005.

The first two challenges were over desert terrain while Saturday's race will be on the training base to test the robots in an urban environment.

"We are once again pleased to participate in this challenge and represent the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the state of Louisiana " said Arun Lakhotia Team CajunBot leader.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the talent we have at UL Lafayette and also in the community."

The Department of Defense created the challenge as a way to stimulate private research of autonomous vehicle technology for military ground operations - whether transporting supplies to scouting areas for soldiers.

Teams have six hours to complete the race. The first team to finish goes home with $2 million.

CajunBot prepares for challenge

October 26 2007
The Daily Advertiser

Qualifying for the Department of Defense’s race of unmanned vehicles began Friday with UL’s CajunBot team among the 35 contenders.

Qualifying continues through Halloween Day. Teams that move through the qualifying round will be eligible to particpate in the $2 million Urban Challenge on Nov. 3 at a military training base in Victorville Calif.

The qualifying event officially kicked off Friday at the Southern California Logistics Airport. The race is sponsored by the DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — DARPA.

“This is all about saving lives ” Dr. Tony Tether DARPA director. “And even if you don’t get the trophy you are all still winners for having been here in the first place.”

UL’s team were finalist for the challenge in 2004 and 2005. The first two challenges were over desert terrain while the Nov. 3 race will be held on the training base to test the robots in an urban environment.

“We are once again pleased to participate in this challenge and represent the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the state of Louisiana ” said Dr. Arun Lakhotia Team CajunBot leader. “It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the talent we have at UL Lafayette and also in the community.”

The Department of Defense created the challenge as a way to stimulate private research of autonomous vehicle technology for military ground operations — whether transporting supplies to scouting areas for soldiers.

Teams have six hours to complete the race. The first team to finish goes home with $2 million.

 

Bound for California, no hands on the wheel

Bound for California no hands on the wheel
By LE ROY STANDISH

The Daily Sentinel

Monday October 22 2007

John Trotter 57 owner of Quality Garage Doors has difficulties when it comes to scrolling through his cell phone’s menu to find someone’s number.

“I hate my cell phone ” he said after accidentally turning on the speaker phone.

His ineptitude with modern technology is all the more surprising when one considers he is part of the nine-man team Mojavaton — a local band of fellows who have worked for the last two years to build a completely autonomous computer-driven vehicle.

“We are proud of the fact we represent Grand Junction ” said Trotter who has been with the team from the start. He has seen the team’s vehicle a 2003 Nissan Xterra that gets about 10 miles to a gallon of gas advance from a stock factory-built SUV to a computer-packed fully autonomous vehicle.

The teams motto is: The lights are on and nobody’s home. That phrase refers to the vehicle not the team members.

The team participated in the Department of Defense open desert challenge last year and placed 13th in a field of 22.

“I don’t think any of us thought we were going to win; there was a lot of stiff competition ” he said.

Team Mojavaton which is one of 35 teams to participate in this year’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge will now attempt to prove its vehicle can navigate city streets. Tuesday the team will trailer its vehicle and head to the Southern California Logistics Air Base (formerly George Air Force Base) in Victorville to begin qualifying for a Nov. 3 challenge testing its ability to safely navigate 60 miles of urban terrain.

The autonomous vehicle “must perform as well as someone with a California Driver’s License ” said Tony Tether director of DARPA.

But with fierce foes such as teams CajunBot Juggernaut and the Urbanator it won’t be easy to win the competition and claim the $2 million grand prize the $1 million second-place prize or the $500 000 third-place prize.

“We have to be able to convoy; then you have to be able to pass cars in traffic ” Trotter said.

Vehicles will have to navigate street signs stay in their proper lanes and avoid other vehicles.

“Of course if you run into a car that is a big demerit ” Trotter said.

When asked how much has been invested in the vehicle team leader Jim Crittenden 56 became elusive.

“Oh I don’t know ” he said with a smile. “I guess that is a nice way of saying I won’t say but I will say it is a whole lot less than a lot of our competitors.”

Some teams — sponsored by heavyweights such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University — have spent in excess of $1 million said Crittenden the general manager of C5 Medical Werks a manufacturer of medical and implantable medical components.

“I think we have set the record among all the DARPA teams for sponsors ” he said.

Without sponsors such as Barney Brothers Big O Tires Bud’s Signs Pro Powder Coating Fox Haven Video Productions TCS Marketing and Tee Time USA team Mojavaton would not exist he said.

Without software experts such as team member Karl Castleton team Mojavaton probably would not exist either.

“He’s the real superstar here ” Crittenden said.

The vehicle is able to use multiple technologies such as radar color cameras lidar (a laser displacement range finder) to see the road ahead. All the sensors then have to communicate with a central brain that fits neatly behind the back seat.

“It’s not much different than a good size desk top PC ” Crittenden said.

The government will have the vehicles go through six days of testing to see if they can safely negotiate intersections avoid oncoming traffic recognize stop signs and navigate through an array of city obstacles. Then on Nov. 3 comes the final test — a 60-mile-long urban track.

Despite the prize money for the top three finishers team members say money is not the motivating factor.

“We do it because it is interesting to us. But if we can touch some of the kids’ in the (Grand) Valley’s lives and say ‘Look what you can do if you apply yourself ’ that is what I am about ” Trotter said referring to Mojavaton’s numerous visits to area schools.

“It really is a labor of love ” Crittenden said. “We enjoy the technological challenge.”

Rounding out team Mojavaton are: Crag Frazier Mike Hawkins Warren MacEvoy Phil Miller Walt Rhodes and Dan Councilman.

To learn more about team Mojavaton visit its Web site at www.mojavaton.com. And to keep tabs on the race visit www.darpa.mil.

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