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Follow Insight Racing along the way to the Urban Challenge
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11/01/07
Finalist Announcement
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 3:09 pm

We are proud of the record of our team.  We are pleased we were in the 19 remaining teams as of last evening, but DARPA selected only 11 teams to proceed to the finals on Saturday.  There were some other really great teams that were also not selected.  The technology advances we made in preparing for the race are a huge leap forward in automotive control and sensor technology and we hope to deploy them to North Carolina’s benefit. 

Thank you to all our sponsors and friends for your support. We couldn’t have come as far without you.  It has been an honor to represent you in this historic event.

13 comments
10/31/07
Another Successful Run
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 9:39 pm

Today we ran Course C again.  Course C tests the Lone Wolf’s ability to correctly navigate intersections.  Scenarios were set up with 1, 2 and 3 other cars in the intersection, the Lone Wolf following another car into an intersection with traffic, and multiple cars lined up to enter an intersection.  The Lone Wolf went through its paces.  It did great.  There was one interesting maneuver during the run.  The Lone Wolf thought it was blocked right before a checkpoint and turned itself around.  It then proceeded to re-route itself back to the check point.  Remembering there was a blockage before the checkpoint, it did another 3 point turn (K-turn) and continued on its mission.  It was cool to watch.  After viewing the on-board video of the run (after the run was completed), we found that the Lone Wolf also encountered a road blocked by construction barrels.  It performed a nice 3 point turn and again re-routed itself so it could continue on its mission.  Very cool.

It was another tense day in the pit.  Several teams were told that they were eliminated.   Some were told they are fully qualified.  Again, we are in limbo, waiting for the announcement of the finalists at 2pm eastern tomorrow (Thursday.) 

So tonight we wait again, hoping tomorrow will bring a positive outcome.

1 comment
Tension Mounts
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 10:54 am

DARPA has cut 6 more teams, for a total of 12 teams eliminated.  Insight Racing is in the remaining 23 teams competing for one of the 20 slots in the November 3rd Urban Challenge race.  The courses are extremely difficult and the competition is very intense.  The tension mounts as we continue our runs as DARPA evaluates our capabilities.

Recent interviews include:  Forbes.com, Korean PBS, and a French news company.  Discovery Channel was by today and plans to cover our next run.

5 comments
10/30/07
Early NQE Results posted
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 8:19 pm

Today DARPA started to announce the teams which have qualified and those which have been eliminated.  Details are found in their Press Release.  At this point, we are still proceeding.  We continue to make runs as requested by DARPA.  The schedules are less predictable now and you have to be ready to run at any time. On Wednesday, we expect DARPA to schedule runs until they determine the final line-up.

Many thanks to LocalTechWire who published an article and video on our team today.  We really appreciate all the support from friends and colleagues back home.  It means so much. 

We are working in our pit area this evening.  There’s a chill in the air, but the smoke is gone.  Fighter jets are flying overhead.  It is an awesome sight.  More tomorrow . . .

4 comments
10/29/07
Evening Update
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 10:55 pm

We ran course A (left turning into traffic) this afternoon and made several laps.  Tomorrow we will run course B late in the afternoon.  The morning and early afternoon will be spent running simulation runs and checking out all the hardware, etc.  We have heard that there are some changes on each of the courses since we last ran them.  Stay tuned . . .
Good night!

1 comment
How the Urban Challenge is scored
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 2:20 pm

People always ask “how is your team doing?”  The answer is “We don’t really know.”  So we will continue to give you our best guess at where things stand.

Unlike a sporting event, the results of the Urban Challenge runs are not posted anywhere - either now or in the future.  I’ll attempt to describe how things work at the National Qualification Event(NQE). 

There are 3 courses here at the Urban Challenge.  Two of the courses are largely hidden from the view of teams, media, and spectators.  DARPA wants the robots to be robust enough to run in an area with conditions we have no knowledge of beforehand. 

Each team will make 2 runs on each course at a time specified by DARPA and given to us at the NQE.  The robot is evaluated by many judges along the route, with judges both in safe areas and also in cars interacting with the robot.  In the NQE, each robot runs the course by itself (along with traffic generated by human drivers).  At the end of the run, we get neither score nor feedback on how the robot did.  The reason for this, I believe, is that there are almost an infinite number of things that can happen with a robot driver, even under closely orchestrated driving conditions.  If the robot makes it through the entire course in the timeframe allowed, you will see it come to the finish line.  If it does not, part of the launch team goes out and retrieves it along the course.  Most robots are not completing the courses, at this time.

For Course A, you can see your robot the entire time.  That is where left turning into traffic is tested.  There is a lot of human-driven traffic in this test.  If a human driver thinks the robot made an unsafe move, he or she hits the horn and a traffic violation is recorded.  DARPA has taken great pains to ensure the human-driven traffic generated is very consistent for each robot.  The drivers spent days practicing the spacing and speed for this course. 

Course B tests driving and includes a street containing a lot of parked cars.  I’ve heard it called “the gauntlet.”  We cannot see it, but know that our car drove the gauntlet successfully by checking our logs.

Course C tests intersection skills.  We can see the intersections well in Course C, but we can not see much more than that.  There is also blocked road testing in course C.  Although our robots have a digital map, they have to be able to react to many unknown conditions, such as blocked roads.  Some very complex intersection precedence scenarios were presented during this test.  We could see the intersection work done by the Lone Wolf and it appeared to handle it all correctly, from our vantage point. 

At the end of all the testing, the finalists will be announced.  I expect that on Thursday.  There will be no standings, no results, and no criteria announced ever.  The decision of the DARPA judges is final.  You know this going into the race, so you decide whether that is okay with you when you sign up.

So . . .  we will continue to update you with our best guess as to where we stand, but it is just a guess.  It is based on our observations and on how other teams and spectators report they’ve done.  Keep in mind that this whole event is mind-boggling to think the robots are doing what they are.  It won’t be long until talking on your cell phone won’t be such a danger when your car is doing the driving for you!

4 comments
10/28/07
October 28 at the Urban Challenge
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 8:45 pm

Check out TerraMax and the Lone Wolf, side by side.  TerraMax is the largest vehicle in the Urban Challenge and the Lone Wolf is the smallest.

We had 2 runs today. 
On the first run, after a great start, we encountered an unusual
condition.  Upon restart, the Lone Wolf
took off at a good clip and drove around parked cars, cones and barrels.  In our next run, we were tested extensively
on interacting with live traffic at 4 way intersections.  The Lone Wolf appeared to perform flawlessly
for 25 minutes.  We will analyze our
video and data from the runs this evening in great detail and are looking
forward to that.

 For the next 3 days, we will have only 1 run a day, on each
of the three courses.  We start with
Course A tomorrow, which last time tested left hand turns across traffic. There
is no way to know whether the mission will be changed by DARPA until we get
there.

 The Lotus engineers developed a new structure to help
protect the electronics on the top of the car. 
The structure should also help other robots see us better.  

We’re getting back to the hotel earlier tonight than usual,
so hope to get some much needed rest.  It
is a lot of fun at the Urban Challenge, but it is also intense and tiring.  We are trying to get out each day’s pictures,
but get a bit behind from time to time. 
Please check back for more photos.

Yesterday’s Photos 

From the Lone Wolf . . .  

(Check back later.  He’s having dinner right now . . .)

1 comment
First Qualification Run - October 27th
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 3:12 pm

Sorry for this late report on October 27th, but being at the National Qualification Event is exhausting.  We go from early morning until late at night.  When we are not running, we are watching other team runs or working on the car.  Every time we have a run, the car is covered with sand so we have to clean it off.  Our first run took place on the morning of the 27th.  It was a test of turning left into traffic.  There were about 12 human driven vehicles circling the testing areas moving in both directions.  The first turn was a test of pulling out and making a left turn into moving traffic from a stop sign.  The second test was left turn from a lane of moving traffic. Many teams were unable to make the first turn.  Some made a few turns.  One team made around 12 laps.  Lone Wolf was in the middle group with about 3.5 laps.  One lidar visor cover touched a cement barrier, but no damage resulted.  

We have 2 runs tomorrow on other courses.  Stay tuned . . .

Hey guys, it’s the Lone Wolf .
. . I have been running ragged these past couple days. I have had many
spectators, press, and other teams looking at how beautiful I look. I
was told many times I am the best looking car here. Yesterday DARPA
officials tested my E-Stop. Things went well, I think I impressed quite
a few people. Today, I ran Course A, it’s a lot different from Kinston.
Many people came over to watch me run. I will let you all know how I am
doing tomorrow. Goodnight.

2 comments
10/26/07
Opening Ceremony
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 11:04 pm

Today the Opening Ceremony began at 7am.  All the team leaders were introduced and brought on stage.  All 35 teams filled the bleachers to hear Dr. Tony Tether begin our events. Some teams had difficulty getting here so the first qualification runs were delayed until tomorrow.  Today is filled with vehicle inspections and testing the emergency stop systems in all the vehicles.

A lot of spectators, press, DARPA officials, and other teams came to look at the Lone Wolf with its new addition the Lotus Exige Biofuel model in our pit area.  Grayson was interviewed by a Swiss TV crew.  We put our Press kits in the media tent.

The skies are clearer today with only a smoky haze present, making it very warm under the California sun.

We had the Lone Wolf side by side with TerraMax today - the smallest Urban Challenge vehicle and the largest one.  The TerraMax tires were taller than the Lone Wolf.  The good news is that each vehicle could “see” the other one.

The Lone Wolf successfully completed its safety inspection and emergency stop test.  Qualification runs begin tomorrow, Saturday.

Pictures may be found by Clicking Here

4 comments
10/25/07
Waiting In Anticipation
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 11:09 pm

Today was another day of preparation at Victorville, CA.  When we arrived at the pit area, there was a definite cloud of smoke over the entire region.  Although the fires were many miles away, a smoke alert was in force.  Anyone who experienced breathing problems would be taken out of the region.  Thankfully, by late afternoon, things had cleared up a lot.  Several more team members arrived today.  DARPA has pushed back the start of the qualification rounds by half a day.  Evidently some of the teams had trouble getting here because of the California wildfires.

We had our first practice run at noon.  The practice areas are quite large this time and there is ample room to try some real maneuvers.  Each participating team gets a practice slot.  Additional slots are provided tomorrow, by request.  Many of our friends arrived today including Lotus Engineering, Northop Grumman, Comtrol and SICK.  It’s great to see everyone again.   Thank you for all your support! Oh, and PCMedEvac, everyone signed your banner today, includng the Lone Wolf.  Watch for pictures.

The Lone Wolf is a very popular car.  Since it  is the only sports car in the race, almost everyone stops to admire the shiny Lotus.  There were many press and DARPA folks through our pit area today, including Dr. Tether, the head of DARPA.  He stopped for a photo opportunity.   At the end of the day, there was a welcome meeting where we received more information about the competition.

Tonight we dined with our Lotus friends at Rosarita’s, except for the software team who went back to the hotel validate some things.  Tomorrow morning we leave at 5:30am.  The Opening Ceremony starts at 7am sharp. 
Pictures may be found by Clicking Here

2 comments
Arrival at NQE
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 12:14 am

The Lone Wolf and several team members arrived in Victorville, CA today to register for the National Qualification Event.  Steve and Jerry drove the Lone Wolf all the way from Raleigh, NC to Victorville.  Check out the pictures of their trip at http://www.insightracing.org/images/Jerry10-24-2007/index.htm.   Upon arrival, we set up our work area and unpacked the car under the watchful eye of several reporter’s cameras.  Not all the teams are here yet, but we have pictures on our site showing those who are at http://www.insightracing.org/images/October252007NQE/index.htm.

From the NQE site, we can see a brush fire in the distance and all its smoke.  It doesn’t appear to be a concern to the race participants at this time.  The winds have reportedly died down a bit and we hope they stay that way.

On Thursday, we will have a visit from the DARPA director in the morning and a practice round in the afternoon.  The opening ceremony is Friday morning and all the cars will be on display then.  We should get some cool pictures at that time.
Friday afternoon starts the actual National Qualification Event runs.  Our first run is scheduled for Saturday morning. 
We’ll keep you posted here as things progress with both a report and pictures every day.  Please stop back!

comments (0)
10/23/07
STATUS AT THE URBAN CHALLENGE
Filed under: AT THE RACE
Posted by: @ 2:22 pm

Several team members met up with the Lone Wolf in Nevada today.  They will travel to Victorville, CA on Wednesday, meeting other team members there.  

2 comments