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Robotics The Military Technology

Eleven Finalists in Pentagon's Robotic Rally 64

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the you-must-be-this-safe-to-ride dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A mere 11 driverless vehicles — not the 20 originally planned — will compete in this weekend's $3.5 million all-robot street rally, hosted by the Pentagon. After a series of crashes, dangerous turns, and aimless wanderings off of the course, the rest of the robo-cars in the "Urban Challenge" were deemed unsafe to compete."
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Eleven Finalists in Pentagon's Robotic Rally

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday November 02, 2007 @06:29AM (#21209701)
    It seems totally out of whack that they'd disqualify entries that wandered all over the track, went the wrong direction down roads, crashed into multiple objects, and generally were a menace on the road.

    After all, they still let women drive.
    • Even worse: they let teenage girls drive.
    • After all, they still let women drive.
      I'm not gonna touch that one, because my wife might see this post and ummmm...let's just say that I like my genitalia, thankyouverymuch.

      Eleven Finalists in Pentagon's Robotic Rally
      Posted by CowboyNeal on Friday November 02, @11:26AM
      OTOH, talk about being posted "in the mysterious future". Hmmmmm.... methinks Slashdot has a clock problem today.

    • by ciaohound (118419) on Friday November 02, 2007 @07:54AM (#21210313)
      No, what's out of whack about that is that such behavior, at least the menacing parts, are essential for survival for driving in Iraq. A friend of mine told me how his son, who serves in the army, was given a week of "reprogramming" upon returning to the States before being allowed to drive here. You know, for things like NOT driving ninety miles an hour, OBSERVING stop signs, YIELDING the right of way, RESPECTING pedestrians, etc, etc, etc.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)
        things like driving ninety miles an hour, OBSERVING stop signs, YIELDING the right of way, RESPECTING pedestrians, etc, etc, etc.

        I'll bet that really endears us to the locals and makes them more likely to have positive feelings towards Americans. When you hear about how well our ambassadors on the ground are behaving, you almost wonder why the Iraqis aren't embracing us with open arms.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arivanov (12034)
          It is either that or die.

          One of my uncles was a contractor in Angola during the civil war and he nearly went to jail for dangerous driving after coming back.

          Apparently many anti-tank mines have a delayed fuse so that they blow up under the middle of the tank. If you drive at 70mph+ it blows up behind you. After 3 years of working down there he was having a panic attack every time his speed dropped under 50.

          Frankly if they can get away with reprogramming without having to undergo therapy they are very lucky.
      • Yeah, I hate it when those damn Ambulances, Fire Engines, and Police Cruisers just tear through the neighborhood with their sirens blaring and those damn lights flashing. Where do they get off driving ninety miles an hour, ignoring stop signs, refusing to yield the right of way, and cutting off pedestrian traffic?

        How dare they! I mean, it isn't like anyone's life is on the line, right?

        • by xenocide2 (231786)
          Except these are security convoys. They're not rushing off to find a terrorist. They're running security patrols or escorting foreign civilian traffic. I don't recall having to yield for a semi carrying food in the states. The reason they have to go fast is because if they stop, they'll get their asses trapped, and subsequently kicked, for venturing outside the security perimeter.

          The US Army is great at fighting other Geneva Convention signers. But those ethics also form a weakness. If you're the sort of pe

    • My robot does this too....it collects data about the surrounding environment, then discards it and drives into walls.

      Just like woman drivers, I guess.
    • by Skrynesaver (994435) on Friday November 02, 2007 @09:21AM (#21211331) Homepage
      Curiously enough insurance statistics tend to indicate that women have the same number of accidents as men, however because the haven't got their egos wrapped around their driving ability they tend not to be doing 30 over the applicable limit at the time and so cause less damage
      • Nothing to do with egos, just tends to be (obviously not always the case, there are some guys that drive like pussies too..) that men enjoy the speed more.. duh..
      • by HungSoLow (809760)
        Those statistics would suggest that since men drive faster than women, yet have the same number of accidents, that women are poorer drivers than men.
        • by hackerjoe (159094)
          So you don't think good judgement about how to mitigate risk is a driving skill? Interesting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Intron (870560)
      "It seems totally out of whack that they'd disqualify entries that wandered all over the track, went the wrong direction down roads, crashed into multiple objects, and generally were a menace on the road."

      True. They could have just moved the competition to downtown Boston.
  • by WPIDalamar (122110) on Friday November 02, 2007 @06:33AM (#21209719) Homepage
    "It would be terrible for one bot to take out another"

    So when is that event scheduled, and will it be on pay per view?

    • by ceeam (39911)
      Reminds me of that competion in "Ah, Megami-sama".
    • "It would be terrible for one bot to take out another"

      So when is that event scheduled, and will it be on pay per view?
      And, more importantly, what sort of weapon will the father of the girl bot be armed with?
    • So when is that event scheduled, and will it be on pay per view?

      From http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/ [darpa.mil]
      The Urban Challenge Final Event on November 3 will be webcast live at www.grandchallenge.org, starting at 7:30 am PT.

      Time change for event start on November 3! Grounds continue to open at 6:00 AM PT for spectators, but the opening ceremony will begin at 7:30 AM, and vehicles will begin to launch at 8:00 AM.

  • by elh_inny (557966) on Friday November 02, 2007 @06:47AM (#21209821) Homepage Journal
    I agree that they were too restrictive.

    Seeing the vidoes on YouTube like these:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh-B3rysxIA [youtube.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7La09EBLf-Q [youtube.com]

    or stories about people driving into lakes and flooded roads "because GPS told them to"

    man who went to the back of his RV while still on the highway to have some coffee, when he crashed, he sued the company for not stating in the manual that "the car does not turn by itself"

    truck driver who drove his lorry into a river, not knowing that the bridge he intended to use was no longer there

    etc

    I'd say pass the control to the machines as soon as possible....
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Silver Sloth (770927)

      man who went to the back of his RV while still on the highway to have some coffee, when he crashed, he sued the company for not stating in the manual that "the car does not turn by itself"
      Er... no. Check your Urban legends first [snopes.com]
      • by elh_inny (557966)
        Sorry for that, didn't know that it wasn't true, as the place I got the info from was Voice of America radio broadcast, which I assume is a reputable source..
        Perhaps it was about urban legends and I didn't get the intro...

      • I worked for the Kuwait Embassy many years ago, and heard a different version from the secretaries there. At that time, Kuwaiti students had their tuition paid at American Colleges, and $50,000 "spending money" (!) - provided they kept a certain GPA. Our software tracked their GPA, "stipend" payments, and sent warning letters when their GPA started slipping - something about enjoying the weather this time of year on an oil platform in the Baltic sea. As the story goes, one student was a big fan of US tec
    • While that 2nd video is indeed a gut buster, I thought this silent film linked off to the side was a bit funnier.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RMLt28n0-M [youtube.com]
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      If the cars had a 1% chance of getting into an accident, they'd be worse than most humans... and the last thing the Pentagon wants to do is sponsor a race that causes car accidents.
  • I was thinking, "Cool! This is as close as we are going to get to: Ninjas vs. Robots." I need more coffee. ;-)
  • Counterintuitive (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581)
    I guess it makes sense if you think about it, but it seems a bit weird that it's much easier to design and build a plane that flies itself than a car that drives itself.
    • The only bit that I really wonder about with UAVs is how they avoid (1) collision with each other (as their use seems to increase and (2) interference with other flying objects (Campbell mobile phones, airlines etc :-).

      And I'd really like to know if one's overhead - with a crash there is a serious chance of these things dropping, say, in the middle of traffic. Altitude + gravity makes for an awful lot of kinetic energy to disperse on impact..
      • by ccccc (888353)
        1) They carry transponders that other UAVs can detect. A different, perhaps greater concern is the detection of things without transponders. Military aircraft, airliners and most light civilian aircraft have transponders, but some light civilian aircraft (mostly older or ultralights) do not. Birds also do not carry transponders.

        2) The defence industry has a fair bit of experience making difficult-to-jam communications systems. That one's probably easier to deal with than #1.
        • In addition to those reasons, IIRC UAV's such as the Predator are unmanned but only in that they don't have a pilot/crew aboard. They are remote controlled. Personally I'd rather have a human ALWAYS in the loop between 'target acquired' and 'bombs away'/'fire missile'. That's the best way to avoid death by computer error.
    • by julesh (229690)
      I guess it makes sense if you think about it, but it seems a bit weird that it's much easier to design and build a plane that flies itself than a car that drives itself.

      Car that drives itself was a solved problem 20 years or so ago. Car that drives itself and can safely integrate with _people_ who are driving, that's a different matter.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday November 02, 2007 @07:51AM (#21210295) Homepage Journal

    After a series of crashes, dangerous turns, and aimless wanderings off of the course
    I don't understand why the Pentagon didn't hire those robots on the spot.
  • by tgd (2822)
    Well at least they haven't shot anyone yet.

    That seems to be the current trend in military robot failures.
  • by ALecs (118703) on Friday November 02, 2007 @09:42AM (#21211655) Homepage
    ...actually - his car is the one that got "clotheslined" in the link from the summary.

    --- BEGIN 644 conspiracytheory.txt ---
    Anyway - I heard Wed. that they were out of the competition - more-or-less arbitrarily. It sounds to me like DARPA already knew, going in to this, who they wanted the finalists to be. Stanford (the previous winner), CMU, Oshkosh - they're all there.

    Last time DARPA basically did the same thing to Team Jefferson. They just said "you guys are done" when they showed up to re-try a test -- after they'd spent 30+ hours doing energency repairs after hitting a barrier. I'm getting the distinct impression they don't want anybody small in this thing. TJ has spent a fraction of the other teams' development costs and for some reason that scares DARPA.
    • Quit whining. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Friday November 02, 2007 @10:48AM (#21212767) Homepage

      As the head of a team that lost in 2005, I don't think so. The 2005 competition was run fairly. The Marine colonel who ran the thing was tough, but fair. The only extra consideration I saw given to a team was that CMU got to have a Discovery Channel camera crew in the starting gate area, which, under the rules, was limited to two people per team.

      In the Urban Challenge, if you hit a stationary object, you weren't ready to compete at that level. Back in 2004, 'bots were hitting stationary obstacles all over the place. Some went off road and rolled over. Oshkosh Truck/OSU not only hit a parked SUV, it pushed it for a while until someone hit the remote emergency stop. (That's why Oshkosh Truck dumped OSU, pulled the project in-house, and finished in 2005, using their huge truck.) CMU hit a fence placed by DARPA just before the event. CMU's vehicle, in 2004, wasn't really autonomous, just preprogrammed. They had a trailer full of people manually planning the route in the two hours before the event, using data obtained via overflights of the area with LIDAR-equipped aircraft. The 2004 Grand Challenge was embarrassing for everyone involved, including DARPA. The press reports made it look like a joke.

      In 2005, everybody who made it to Fontana had something better than anybody had in 2004. There were very few collisions. It was striking, being at the raceway in Fontana, and seeing 43 large, autonomous vehicles, all of which basically worked. There'd been enormous progress in a year and a half. Mobile robotics wasn't a joke any more. We were out of the Comedy Channel/Robot Wars era, and into the ESPN/NASCAR era. With NASCAR-sized budgets for some teams, but not all. Some small teams were successful. Although "small", in this game, means mid six figures to low seven figures.

      This year, DARPA insists you not hit anything. Urban Challenge vehicles have to drive in traffic. There are cars with human drivers on the course. Complaining about being eliminated after a collision with a stationary barrier is just whining.

      • A number of teams were eliminated this year without hitting anything. From what I could tell, those teams who did collide with either a stationary object or a chase car got eliminated before the 11 finalists announcement. This report [tgdaily.com] indicates that the remaining vehicles that didn't make the cut were cut because they would have "caused traffic jams" due to not traveling as fast as other vehicles, which sounds like a pretty bogus reason to me at first glance.
        • Re:Quit whining. (Score:5, Informative)

          by SwordsmanLuke (1083699) on Friday November 02, 2007 @01:13PM (#21215055)

          A number of teams were eliminated this year without hitting anything.
          Yup. I work for a small company which was competing in the Urban Challenge. We haven't hit anything (or even come close to hitting anything), but we got cut yesterday as well. It took us by surprise. We understand that collisions are a Bad Thing, but if our vehicle is just a tad more cautious than the other vehicles - why is that bad enough to warrant elimination?

          For the record though, I doubt if the eliminations were rigged. True, only a few small companies made it to the finals, but I think that has more to do with small companies also having small budgets and not being able to afford the same level of investment as larger firms. Also, a number of Track A teams (which DARPA has already made a not-insignificant investment in) were cut, my company included.
          • Out of curiosity, do you happen to know how many of the finalists were Track A and how many were Track B?
            • There were 10 Track A teams total. I don't know how many made it to the semi-finals, but it wasn't all of them. There were a *ton* of Track B teams, since the only requirement was that you had a vehicle which met certain simple* requirements. The Track A teams, OTOH were teams which DARPA felt were sufficiently advanced to warrant their investment of $1,000,000 (in two $500,000 installments so long as the team appeared to be making progress).
  • And one man could command a tank division. No other humans involved. Quite a centralisation of power.
     
  • by illectro (697914) on Friday November 02, 2007 @10:40AM (#21212613)
    That's better odds than the people they're giving licenses to in this country.
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      That's better odds than the people they're giving licenses to in this country.

      Why isn't it modded troll already? What you mean by all these people not being safe to drive is that they can sometimes behave dangerously, forget their blinker, not give you your due priority, occasionally get involved in minor accidents, etc... Here, the 45% deemed unsafe are deemed so because they can't drive an hour without leaving the road and rolling over or systematically hitting obstacles. Not quite the same thing..

  • In the article Safety Last for Robo-Cars [wired.com], Jefferson team member Janie Perrone said, "...I think he jinxed us." Well, with such medieval thinking, the Jefferson team should count their lucky stars that they weren't all burned as witches.
  • Every time I open my RSS reader I cant stop reading "Elven Finalists in Pentagon's Robotic Rally". That would be a notice...

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