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CajunBot II sidelined in $2 million race

Vehicle stumped on navigating neighborhood street

CajunBot II did what it could but it wasn't enough to please DARPA officials Wednesday.

The autonomous vehicle designed by UL students and researchers was sidelined late Wednesday ending the team's hopes of competing in its third race of the country's driverless vehicles.

The race is sponsored by the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and was created about three years ago to spur private research in the area of autonomous vehicles.

On Saturday teams from across the country will race in Victorville Calif. for a $2 million prize.

For the past three days 35 teams have been testing round after round on a former military base in Victorville for one of the 20 spots in the final race.

But CajunBot II wasn't prepared for one of the obstacles - how to navigate smoothly and at the appropriate speed down a neighborhood street lined with parked vehicles on both sides of the lane.

The team scrambled to write a program to give the bot the capability but they needed more time to test it said Arun Lakhotia Team CajunBot leader.

At 1 a.m. Wednesday morning a code was written to help the vehicle negotiate the new obstacles and by 6 a.m. the new programming was in place.

"We had a comeback but we didn't have enough time to tune the perimeters " Lakhotia said. "It was a matter of tuning everything right. The key thing was we pulled it all together in time for this but for the tuning we needed more time."

On Saturday the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's third race of autonomous vehicles will be held in Victorville Calif. While in the past two years the race has been held across desert terrain this year's challenge tests the vehicles' ability to navigate through city streets.

Earlier Wednesday CajunBot II showed that it could merge in and out of traffic circles. In that test it shared the roadway with five vehicles traveling in an inner loop and five in an outer loop. The team's Jeep Wrangler was able to merge in and out without any glitches.

Later in the day while testing its ability to navigate through the neighborhood the bot went off course.

"It's been a pretty amazing run " Lakhotia said. "It's been a difficult run. I knew it would be hard I didn't know it would be this hard."

The team worked through the past few days on too few hours of sleep and had last minute hiccups like the need for a new alternator.

Because of the degree of difficulty in this year's competition Lakhotia suspected that there may not be a full roster of 20 teams competing Saturday. The finalists will be named today.

The team will stick around to see the race play out on Saturday.

They'll also continue their tradition of serving their competitors spoonfuls of crawfish étouffée - courtesy of the Majors family - on Friday.

"We want to see how the others are doing " Lakhotia said. "We'll need to know what they did right and what they did wrong and we'll learn from them. We came here for the challenge and we want to see how it goes."


Only 11 teams qualify for $2 million race

November 1 2007
The Daily Advertiser

UL Team CajunBot hoped to fill one of the 20 spots available in Saturday's Grand Challenge a $2 million race sponsored by the Department of Defense's DARPA.

But only 11 teams from across the country passed the agency's rigorous qualifying tests and will compete on Saturday in Victorville Calif.

Louisiana's other team Team Gray of Metairie also didn't make the cut.

Among the semifinalists are two German teams and Virginia Tech's vehicle the VictorTango.

Here's a list of the teams:

Team AnnieWay — Karlsruhe Germany
Ben Franklin Racing Team — Philadelphia
CarOLO — Braunschweig Germany
Team Cornell — Ithaca NY
Honeywell/Intelligent Vehicle Systems — Troy and Dearborn Mich. and Minneapolis
MIT — Cambridge Mass.
Team Oshkosh Truck —Oshkosh WI
Stanford Racing Team — Stanford Calif.
Tartan Racing — Pittsburgh
Team UCF — Orlando
VictorTango — Blacksburg Va.

CajunBot II missed the race for the money, but enhanced UL's image

Nov 1 2007
The Daily Advertiser

CajunBot II the autonomous vehicle designed by UL students and researchers didn’t qualify for the driverless vehicle race sponsored by the Department of Defenses’ Advanced Research Projects Agency. One of the obstacles navigating down a neighborhood street lined with parked vehicles created a problem that was not overcome in time and the chance to compete for the $2 million prize slipped away.

Despite the failure the development of CajunBot II and its predecessors has earned UL a place among schools with major robotic programs. That greatly enhances the university’s academic standing.

Everyone involved in the project deserves the gratitude of Acadiana citizens.

CajunBot in final round to qualify today

VICTORVILLE Calif. - UL CajunBot II moves into its final round of qualifying today at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville.

Though the autonomous Jeep Wrangler had previous problems in one test area on Tuesday morning 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.
Team CajunBot worked through the night to adjust the bot's sensors and analyzers in preparation of the early morning test. The bot previously had trouble in this testing area.

"We are extremely happy with CajunBot II's performance this morning " said Scott Wilson team adviser in a news release.

"This is why we worked through the night. The bot performed with only two minor glitches. She pretty much ran the course flawlessly."

CajunBot II had to move through the cluttered neighborhood's streets - making U-turns right and left turns all while interacting and avoiding DARPA's moving vehicles on the course.

The team celebrated for only a minute with handshakes and high-fives before heading back to the pit area to launch their simulation software and begin analyzing the test run.

Team CajunBot will continue testing today in test areas A and B. Test area A involves interacting with 10 DARPA vehicles - five in an inner loop and five in an outer loop. CajunBot II will have to use its sensors to recognize when it has the right-of-way to merge into traffic in both loops.

In a previous test in this area the bot performed 14 laps with only a few glitches.

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 sponsored by DARPA.

Team CajunBot participated in the first two races.

CajunBot survives problems

Advocate Acadiana bureau
Published: Oct 30 2007

VICTORVILLE Calif. — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Team CajunBot finished its third day of qualifying Monday for the 2007 Urban Challenge which pits robotic vehicles against each other in a city street setting.

This is the third challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense in which Team CajunBot has competed.

CajunBot II — the robotic Jeep outfitted with a variety of sensors and computers — had a hiccup Monday but team members said they believe they will be able to sort out the issues when the qualifying event continues today.

“We’ve gotten a lot further this morning than a lot of other bots ” Scott Wilson Team CajunBot adviser said in a release. “It’s not about pass or fail in qualifying rounds. It’s how you solve problems you encounter.”

The team has spent a lot of sleepless nights this weekend making last minute adjustments based on a simulation program that tracks all of CajunBot II’s movements.

Qualifying is taking place at the former George Air Force Base in California.

The 2007 Urban Challenge is designed to spur innovation in robotic vehicles that can be used in urban combat zones.

The previous two challenges in 2004 and 2005 were designed for desert environments.

In the urban challenge the robotic vehicles must negotiate streets with traffic while abiding by traffic laws.

During a trial Monday CajunBot II had a problem when the road was reduced from two lanes to one. “We’re going to go back and look at the data we have. We’ll make the necessary adjustments and then begin planning for tomorrow’s qualifying round ” Wilson said.

On Sunday officials with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced additional qualifying rounds. Each team will once again run through the three testing areas.

Today CajunBot II must react to oncoming traffic in intersections. Finalists for the 2007 Urban Challenge are expected to be announced Thursday.

The top 20 teams will compete against one another Saturday. The first team to finish the race will receive $2 million with second place receiving $1 million and third $500 000.

Team CajunBot is one of 36 teams competing to qualify for Saturday’s main event.

Team CajunBot is made up of 17 team members who are students and faculty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and members of the Acadiana community.

Sponsors for CajunBot II include SICK Ibeo Oxford Technology Services Hewlett-Packard C&C Technologies Lafayette Motors Med Express Ambulance Service Firefly Digital and ULL.

For more information or to watch Saturday’s event live visit

Additional information