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DARPA invites Austin Robot Technology to NQE

August 09, 2007

Anaheim, CA -- Austin Robot Technology today became one of 36 teams invited to participate in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge National Qualifying Event. The announcement was made by the Director of DARPA, Dr. Anthony Tether during a live webcast from the DARPATech 2007 conference:

Dr. Tether took the stage to the tune of "The Macarena" and proceeded to tell the crowd that we would have an exciting race in our hands on November 3rd. Dr. Tether mentioned how the results of the 2005 Grand Challenge were beyond his wildest expectations, but he cautioned the crowd that the 2007 Urban Challenge is a much more difficult problem: the vehicles must complete a simulated battlefield supply mission in an urban area. The vehicles must obey California traffic laws, merge into traffic, navigate traffic circles, negotiate busy intersections and avoid moving obstacles. The 60 mile mission must be completed in under 6 hours.

Dr. Tether mentioned that after much research DARPA decided that the competition would take place at the Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) training site at the former George Air Force Base near Victorville, California. MOUT is the same environment where many of today's operational missions are conducted and the Navy, Army and Marines use the area for training.

An entire brigade, approximately 5000 troops are there now. As soon as the Marines finish their training DARPA will conduct cleanup operations and start preparing the site for the Urban Challenge event. Dr. Tether stressed that as of today the area is now closed to all team members and their families.

BlabberMouth to promote Austin Robot Technology

May 31, 2007

Austin Robot Technology today announced that it has selected BlabberMouth PR as its public relations agency of record. BlabberMouth PR, is the only PR firm to offer its clients 100 percent representation by senior-level practitioners. BlabberMouth will assist ART and its partner, The University of Texas at Austin, in promoting the development of their autonomous vehicle in preparation for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge.

Austin Robot Technology acquires Velodyne HDL-64E lidar

March 9, 2007

Austin Robot Technology announced today that it will utilize a Velodyne HDL-64E laser rangefinder system to supplement the sensors in the team's autonomous vehicle.

The HDL-64E's patented one-piece design uses 64 fixed-mounted lasers to measure the surrounding environment, each mechanically mounted to a specific vertical angle, with the entire unit spinning. This approach dramatically increases reliability, field of view and point cloud density. The system boasts a full 360 degree horizontal field of view and a 26.8 degree vertical field of view. The 64 lasers provide over 1 million points per second output rate.

Austin Robot Technology acquires Applanix POS LV INU

March 2, 2007

Austin Robot Technology today received shipment of the Applanix POS LV system which will be integrated into the team's autonomous vehicle.

"--We are looking forward to integrating the POS LV into our vehicle," said Austin Robot Technology's team leader. "--During the last Grand Challenge we didn't have reliable heading information due to the limitations of the digital compass in our previous INU, but the Applanix should provide us with a true representation of vehicle motion in all three axes."

The POS LV is a compact, fully integrated, turnkey position and orientation system, utilizing integrated inertial technology to generate stable, reliable and repeatable positioning solutions for land-based vehicle applications.

Designed to operate under the most difficult GPS conditions found in urban and suburban environments, POS LV enables accurate positioning for road geometry, pavement inspection, GIS database and asset management, road surveying, and vehicle dynamics.

Austin Robot Technology partners with The University of Texas

November 24, 2006

Austin Robot Technology announced today that the University of Texas Computer Science Professor Peter Stone is teaming with Austin Robot Technology to enter the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge Race.

Professor Stone will be teaching a Spring 2007 course entitled "Autonomous Vehicles: Driving in Traffic." More than twice as many students as can be accommodated have already pre-registered for the class, demonstrating the enthusiasm by the University of Texas students for this event.

Austin Robot Technology attends Urban Challenge Participant's Conference

May 20, 2006

Austin Robot Technology attended the Urban Challenge Participant's Conference, held at the Hyatt hotel in Reston, Virginia. More than 300 engineers, scientists, students and backyard innovators gathered to hear details on DARPA's third Grand Challenge: the Urban Challenge scheduled for November 3, 2007.

"The Grand Challenge has been an unqualified success in attracting robotic enthusiasts from all walks of life to develop technology that will someday save the lives of American men and women on the battlefield," said DARPA Director Dr. Tony Tether. "The Urban Challenge is a more difficult problem to solve than what competitors faced in Grand Challenge '05, but I believe the participants will come forward with innovative solutions. I'm thrilled that so many people want to compete. There is every reason to believe these enthusiasts will accelerate autonomous ground vehicle technology faster than what would be possible with traditional research."

DARPA announces Urban Challenge

May 1, 2006

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States Department of Defense announced that it will hold a third Grand Challenge for Autonomous Robotic Ground Vehicles on November 3, 2007.

Teams will compete to build an autonomous vehicle able to complete a 60-mile urban course safely in less than 6 hours. To succeed, vehicles must autonomously obey traffic laws while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding obstacles.

Five vehicles finish Grand Challenge course, Stanford wins

October 9, 2005

Primm, NV -- The much anticipated robotic race started yesterday -- shortly after a spectacular sunrise -- with the launching of Carnegie Mellon University's H1ghlander, followed by Stanford's Stanley and CMU's second entry Sandstorm.

By the end of what turned out to be a dramatic day of autonomous racing, four vehicles had completed the course as the Gray Team's Kat-5 joined the top three vehicles at the finish line. Team Terramax's vehicle was paused overnight and resumed the race early Sunday morning, completing the course before noon. When the final results were tallied, Stanford University's vehicle Stanley had the winning time of 6 hours, 53 minutes and 58 seconds (6:53:58), closely followed by Sandstorm (7:04:50) and H1ghlander (7:14:00).

"--We came very close to qualifying for the race," said Austin Robot Technology's team leader, "--Only 27 teams completed a full run at the NQE but DARPA was able to invite only 23 teams to the race. We missed the cut by four, but we are extremely proud of what our small team of volunteers was able to accomplish in only nine months."

195 teams entered the DARPA Grand Challenge competition, 117 teams were awarded site visits by DARPA, 43 teams qualified to compete at the National Qualification Event and only 23 teams were invited to participate in the actual Grand Challenge Event. The team from Austin built and designed their vehicle in nine months, including the design and implementation of their own drive-by-wire system. The team was ranked 13th after the first day of competition at the NQE.

NQE results announced, Austin Robot Technology misses cut by four

October 5, 2005

Fontana, CA -- The closing ceremony for the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge National Qualification Event was held today at the California Speedway. DARPA Chief of Staff Ron Kurjanowicz and DARPA Director Dr. Anthony Tether entertained the crowd as they announced the top twenty finishers.

"--They put on a good show... it was very funny!" said Austin Robot Technology's team leader. Dr. Tether first congratulated all 43 teams and then proceeded to list the top 20 teams, 'In no particular order', he said. He then listed only 19 teams and said 'That's it', deliberately skipping Red Team's Sandstorm. You could hear the murmurs and the surprised reaction in the crowd. The skit continued as Dr. Tether conferred with Ron Kurjanowicz and both looked at the list again before saying 'Oh, yes, one more, Sandstorm!'

Dr. Tether continued the entertainment and asked the crowd whether DARPA should keep the list to 20 or invite a couple more teams. "--Make it 24 Tony, please, make it 24!" came a reply from the crowd. Dr. Tether then announced he wished he could bring all teams to Primm, but he said DARPA could only invite 23.

"--We had a few failures that cost us a qualifying spot," said Austin Robot Technology's team leader, "--We had a real heartbreak during one of our runs when our lasers became blinded as our vehicle faced directly into the early morning sun. About half the teams at the NQE knew how to set their SICK lasers into 'High Availability' mode which prevents the laser from shutting down due to excessive glare, but the other half didn't know the magic setting. Our third run ended prematurely as our vehicle obediently applied full brakes when the lasers stopped responding. After our run we called SICK technical support and they immediately gave us the 13 steps required to configure the laser to prevent shutdown. It is a real shame we didn't know about this setting before the NQE."

"--We had another setback when our track run came much earlier than anticipated due to faster scheduling of teams when DARPA started running two vehicles at once through the course. We were skipped for a practice run and a software glitch caused our vehicle to make 219 unscheduled stops along the course, stopping for 10 seconds each time and logging data before restarting. The chase vehicle later told us we went through the tunnel 6 inches at a time, stopping for 10 seconds each time, whereas our first two runs we just breezed through the tunnel. Due to all the unscheduled stops, we recorded the slowest time of all teams, clocking in at an impressive 52 minutes! We were told jokingly that Team Terramax is very happy about that because they are no longer the slowest vehicle at the NQE :-) But if you take away the 2,190 seconds our vehicle spent completely stopped logging data, our run would have been a very respectable 16 minutes."

Many other teams had failures as well at the California Speedway, including fires and several high speed collisions with the concrete barriers.

MARVIN conquers infamous tank trap during Run #4 at the NQE

October 2, 2005

DARPA's National Qualification Event continues to unfold at the California Speedway in Fontana and the tank trap continues to confound countless vehicles. Made out of 4x4 wooden posts, and covered with reflective foil, the tank trap is nearly invisible to a variety of sensors used in typical Grand Challenge vehicles. "--With it's sharp angles and reflective surfaces, it is almost as effective as the Stealth bomber in becoming nearly invisible to lasers and radars," said Austin Robot Technology's team leader. "--A lot of teams can't see it. Earlier today a team just rammed straight into the tank trap and pushed it all the way to the finish line. Dr. Tether has said he reserves the right to put the tank trap anywhere in the course."

In a nail-biter of a finish, Austin Robot Technology's DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle MARVIN wowed the crowd today as it swerved just in time to avoid Dr. Tony Tether's infamous tank trap. The sensors detected the tank trap just in time for a high speed swerving maneuver that caused the crowd gathered at the pedestrian bridge to burst into cheers and applause. Moments later MARVIN applied full brakes after crossing the finish line and appeared to take a bow for the crowd.

WEBMASTER NOTE: Click on image above to see a 48 second MPEG clip of MARVIN'S encounter with the tank trap (4 MB).

Austin Robot Technology ranked 13th as NQE teams complete Run #1

September 29, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines, the DARPA Grand Challenge National Qualification Event is underway at the California Speedway in Fontana, California!

195 teams entered the DARPA Grand Challenge competition, 117 teams were awarded site visits by DARPA, and 43 teams qualified to compete at the NQE.

As the second day of competition draws to an end, all teams have completed at least one run through the obstacle course and Austin Robot Technology's vehicle, MARVIN, is ranked the 13th best autonomous vehicle at the NQE. Only 11 teams finished their first run through the course, and only one other team completed more gates than Austin Robot Technology. Their vehicle, MARVIN, is tied for 13th place with ALICE, the vehicle from Caltech. Both vehicles completed 21 gates before being disabled.

"We are proud of being ranked 13th, but we can do much better than we did today." said Austin Robot Technology's team leader. "Anything can happen yet. DARPA is targeting four runs through the obstacle course per team. They have guaranteed each team will get at least two runs, but they are hoping to get as many as six."

DARPA invites Austin Robot Technology to NQE

August 23, 2005

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced today that Austin Robot Technology has been invited to the Grand Challenge 2005 National Qualification Event (NQE) to be held September 28 to October 6, 2005 at the California Speedway, Fontana, California. The two other alternate teams invited by DARPA to the NQE include Princeton University and Team Underdawg from San Jose, California.

Forty-three teams are now invited to compete at the National Qualification Event. The NQE will further narrow the field and only 20 teams will advance from the NQE to the final Grand Challenge Event to be held October 8.

Perceptive readers will note a time lag between this entry and the previous entry on this page. "--Rest assured that means we have been hard at work on our robot, if not our website," quipped Austin Robot Technology's team leader :-) "--We have lots of photos of our vehicle and other content we want to publish on our website. We'll start working on it October 9th." :-)

Arens Controls to sponsor Austin Robot Technology

February 7, 2005

Austin Robot Technology announced today that Arens Controls Company of Carpentersville, Illinois, will sponsor the Austin team's effort in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.

Arens will provide the required shift-by-wire capability and will provide engineering assistance in the mounting, calibration and integration of their system.

"--We looked at many alternate designs for our shift-by-wire component and the solution provided by Arens Controls is truly a best-of-breed product." said Juan Martin-de-Nicolas, a member of Austin Robot Technology's mechanical team. "--We are very excited to be working with them."

Arens Controls Company is an industry leader in the design and manufacturing of electro-mechanical controls. Arens produces a variety of controls including shift selectors, shift by wire systems, hybrid vehicle systems, custom electro-mechanical control systems, components, actuators, and display assemblies.

Since 1939, America's leading manufacturers have turned to Arens for the custom design and production of electro-mechanical controls, helping the Illinois-based company become the world's leading supplier of electronic shift selectors and shift by wire systems for heavy-duty transmissions.

Austin Robot Technology completes initial sonar test

January 28, 2005

Austin Robot Technology has completed initial testing of its proprietary sonar sensor. Sonar is one of many sensors which will be used on the team's vehicle to allow it to safely navigate the DARPA Grand Challenge course.

The team is currently working on its second-generation design. "--Our first-generation design has a broad pattern, but our next design will use an improved sensor arrangement which will provide better resolution." explained Matt Bennett, a member of Austin Robot Technology's sonar team.

The sensor uses 40 KHz ultrasonic pulses, and real time signal processing. The sending and receiving units are mounted on a custom rotating arm, giving the sensor a field of view of 180 degrees. The device uses the measured time-of-flight to calculate the corresponding distance and direction of nearby objects, generating images similar to those produced by traditional radar.

Austin Robot Technology selects QuickSilver motor for drive-by-wire steering

January 3, 2005

Austin Robot Technology has selected the Quicksilver 34HC-1 I-Grade Brushless Servo to actuate the steering for its DARPA Grand Challenge entry:

The servo is capable of operation at 12VDC (up to 48VDC). The motor has an integrated encoder with 16,000 line/rev resolution and is programmable via an RS232 interface.

The QuickSilver motor was selected due to it's ability to deliver the necessary torque and RPM combination, allowing us to steer the robot even under the most demanding conditions. The servo will be able to turn the wheels lock-to-lock in close to 2 seconds, allowing the robot to react even quicker than a human driver.

Austin Robot Technology acquires Isuzu VehiCROSS

December 23, 2004

Austin Robot Technology announced today that the Suzuki-Isuzu dealership of Austin has provided an Isuzu VehiCROSS for the team's DARPA Grand Challenge entry. The outstanding qualities of this little SUV were proven in it's first year of production during the Paris-Dakar Rally and the 1999 Australian Safari Rally where the VehiCROSS won its class.

"--The VehiCROSS is an ideal platform for our Grand Challenge vehicle," explained Austin Robot Technology's President and founder. "--We wanted a 4WD vehicle that would perform well in the desert, had good ground clearance and stability, was manageable in size and had a limited slip differential. With it's sophisticated Borg-Wagner transfer case and one of the tightest rear limited slips on the market it gives us the peace of mind that our vehicle won't spin its wheels if it gets caught on a berm. The Isuzu VehiCROSS meets or exceeds all of our requirements. We are extremely grateful that Suzuki-Isuzu of Austin has provided our team with such an outstanding vehicle. We are very fortunate to have found such a generous sponsor."

The team has decided to design and build it's own drive-by-wire system instead of purchasing an after-market implementation such as those available for people with disabilities. "--Now that we have a vehicle we are looking forward to start designing and implementing our steering actuator." said the team's President. "--We have less than three months before we need to submit our team video for DARPA's consideration and we have only nine months to get ready for the NQE."

The National Qualification Event, or NQE, will be held in September 2005 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California. DARPA will use the results of the NQE to determine which teams are invited to participate in the actual Grand Challenge race to be held October 8, 2005.

Austin Robot Technology invited to give presentation at UT Austin

December 10, 2004

The first week in December 2004 Austin Robot Technology was invited by Dr. Robert Hebner to give a presentation at the UT Center for Electromechanics:

Dr. Hebner is the Director at CEM and he was intrigued by our project. He invited us to give a presentation for him and his staff about the DARPA Grand Challenge and about possible collaboration with The University of Texas at Austin.

Our presentation was very well received. We almost ran past our allotted time at their conference room due to the lengthy Q&A; session following the presentation. All our effort paid off handily as we recruited several top-notch volunteers for our team!

Thank you Dr. Hebner for inviting us!

Austin Robot Technology selects NavCom SF-2050G GPS receiver

November 2, 2004

Austin Robot Technology has selected NavCom's SF-2050G unit for their DARPA Grand Challenge entry:

NavCom's SF-2050G and SF-2050M modular StarFire receivers provide instant position information for decimeter-level position accuracy, anywhere in the world, anytime. Onboard memory, and a geodetic quality antenna enable millimeter level accuracy from post-processing.

The SF-2050 utilizes a compact tri-band antenna capable of receiving GPS and StarFire signals. This antenna provides excellent phase center stability in a small, robust, lightweight format. Coupled with NavCom Technology's StarFire subscription service, the SF-2050 delivers 10 cm position fixes without the use of a second receiver serving as a base station.

Austin Robot Technology partners with Suzuki-Isuzu of Austin

September 23, 2004

Austin Robot Technology has partnered with Suzuki-Isuzu of Austin for participation in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.

Mark Moldenhauer, the principal owner of Suzuki-Isuzu of Austin said: "--The DARPA Grand Challenge is a unique opportunity for individuals to collaborate in the hopes of advancing the state of the art and in the hopes of saving lives on the battlefield. Technically this is a very difficult problem. Nothing like this has ever been done before, but I think our team has the creative spark of genius required to rise to the challenge."

Mr. Moldenhauer's vision is to involve the Austin community. He said: "--Austin needs to participate in this event. With the history of technology in this town, we need to have one of our own at the starting line next year. Our vision is to involve the entire Austin community in this event."

Austin Robot Technology attends Grand Challenge Participant's Conference

August 14, 2004

Austin Robot Technology team members attended the DARPA Grand Challenge Participant's Conference, held at the Marriott hotel in Anaheim, California. Over 550 individuals from 42 states and seven countries turned out August 14 for a first look at the preliminary rules, timetable for deadlines, and the qualification process for DARPA Grand Challenge 2005.

DARPA Director Anthony J. Tether said, "--We all knew the first Grand Challenge had sparked a new interest in robotics technology across the nation. But the level of excitement here today exceeds our expectations. The turnout at this conference, and the level of interest expressed by people who could not attend, is a tribute to American ingenuity and to our collective spirit of teamwork and determination."

Austin Robot Technology announces participation in 2005 Grand Challenge

June 25, 2004

Austin Robot Technology announced today it will compete in the upcoming DARPA Grand Challenge. Austin Robot Technology is a team of volunteers, highly experienced in hardware, software and mechanical systems. The problem is exciting and difficult, time is short and we want to make sure that Austin is well-represented at this event. We believe in teamwork, and we are seeking additional team members, technical collaborators, and sponsors from the Austin technology and academic communities.

DARPA announces 2005 Grand Challenge

June 8, 2004

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States Department of Defense announced that it will hold a second Grand Challenge for Autonomous Robotic Ground Vehicles on October 8, 2005.

DARPA created the Grand Challenge in response to a Congressional and Department of Defense mandate. The Grand Challenge is a field test intended to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles that will help save American lives on the battlefield. The Grand Challenge brings together individuals and organizations from industry, the R&D; community, government, the armed services, academia, students, backyard inventors, and automotive enthusiasts in the pursuit of a technological challenge.

As with the inaugural event held in March 2004, autonomous vehicles will attempt to navigate a challenging course of varying terrain. In the first DARPA Grand Challenge, held on a desert route from California to Nevada, 15 teams from a field of 106 applicants progressed to the final event. DARPA anticipates even greater participation in Grand Challenge 2005.

"Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it." -- Chinese Proverb

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