Alice Goes Four Wheelin' (Autonomously)

Well, today was Team Caltech’s first attempt at qualifying for the DARPA Grand Challenge. We couldn’t finish the course due to a bug in our GPS code, but we’ll have another chance tomorrow. If interesed, the team has posted a short quicktime movie showing Alice (Caltech’s entry) autonomously four wheelin’ over a bunch of hay bales on the course.

Edit: Here’s a link to a story about Alice and the team published today.


That looks cool. Were they able to find the glitch and fix it? Good luck!

Why did it stop?

my guess is that they have problems in their software about reinitializing the system after gps is lost and then picks up again. you would lose gps when you are in the tunnel and when it comes back afterwords your computer needs to be able to handle that.

my team had a similar problem while testing but our vehicle ran into the trees when gps came back and we had to use our ekill

Yes, it’ll be fixed by the next attempt.


I don’t know all of the details yet. When Alice entered the tunnel, the path planner has to rely on our LN-200 Inertial Measurement Unit and some very sophisticated state estimation code to guess where Alice moves from moment to moment. When the GPS unit started providing navigation solutions again, it looks like the arbiter may have freaked, causing Alice to go into safe mode.


Four wheelin over hay bails is bad? All in all Alice looks very impressive.

Good luck guys! Wish I could be there!

With the last news update I had, CMU’s H1ghlander had the best performance so far, turning in a 9:22 run with no errors this morning. They had a planned time of 9:26, and the actual performance was able to improve on that. H1ghlander’s elapsed time and driving were improvements beyond its Wednesday qualifier performance. Sensors that were skewed on Wednesday were calibrated overnight, resulting in the improvement. But several other teams were still waiting for their second opportunity at the test course, so we will see if that record holds (Alice had not run yet when I got the H1ghlander update).


I was working at Stanford this summer, and I got a tour of the ‘car’ in July.
From what little they let me know, it seems their testing was going pretty well. I’ve tried to hook up with them in August, but they were pretty much out in the field all summer tweaking.

From what I saw, I think they have a viable contender. I tried to get onto the team, but they were in ‘launch lockdown.’

Alice just successfully finished the course in about twelve minutes thirty seconds.


Looking at some of these entries, H1ghlander espescially, blows my mind. I simply cannot fathom the work that went into being able to map terrain to that accuracy in real time, and then do something meaningful with that deluge of data.

Vae Victus (1418) was visited a few weeks ago by two DARPA “referees” who refused to speculate on the outcome, but are probably there right now.

Congrats to you and your team Kevin. I hope to be able to make a similar report about IRV before next Wednesday.

Congrats. Ive been watching this since it started and I’m pretty hopeful that someone will win this year (or at least blow last years record out of the water). I got my picks for the winners and I hope you guys do very well today. Whatever is developed here will herald a new bread of autonomous robots and some of the developments made to that goal are truly amazing. In short, DARPA really knows its shtick. By the way is their a live feed we can watch? I looked but only found footage of last year.

By yesterday morning the Stanford team came through and “Stanley” bettered H1ghlander’s time through the course by about 4 seconds. They held the lead for most of the day. But late in the afternoon the other CMU vehicle, Sandstorm, turned in a 8:59 run. I believe that this is the first sub-9-minute performance by any of the vehicles. But any of the vehicles that are able to consistently turn in complete runs over thier set of attempts will likely have a good shot at making it into the race on Saturday.

The fact that about half of the vehicles attempting the course on the first day were able to complete it is a very good sign. As I recall, none of the teams were able to get through the course on the first attempts last year. So this is a significant step forward. The field of finalists next weekend should be quite interesting!


Actually Stanford uses a really cool programming ideas. Their robot takes data and then figures out the probability that that data isn’t false. apparently they reran last years coarse and made it most of the way (they had to stop because the human driven car got a flat.).

These are the twenty-three teams going to the DGC festivities this weekend:

Axion Racing (Westlake Village, CA)
Team Cajunbot (Lafayette, LA)
Team Caltech (Pasadena, CA)
CIMAR (Gainesville, FL)
Team Cornell (Ithaca, NY)
Team DAD (Morgan Hill, CA)
Desert Buckeyes (Ohio State University, Columbus, OH)
Team ENSCO (Springfield, VA)
The Golem Group/UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
The Gray Team (Metairie, LA)
Insight Racing (Cary, NC)
Intelligent Vehicle Safety Systems I (Littleton, CO)
Mitre Meteorites (McLean, VA)
MonsterMoto (Cedar Park, TX)
Mojavaton (Grand Junction, CO),
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
Red Team (Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA)
Red Team Too (Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA)
SciAutonics/Auburn Engineering (Thousand Oaks, CA)
Stanford Racing Team (Palo Alto, CA)
Team Terra Max (Oshkosh, WI)
Virginia Tech Team Rocky (Blacksburg, VA)
Virginia Tech Grand Challenge Team (Blacksburg, VA)


Edit: Here’s the official press release.

Woah, VT qualified TWO teams. That’s impressive.

here’s a recent article on GC including the pictures! enjoy!

Alice is looking good, im rooting for Team CalTech!