Follow Insight Racing along the way to the Urban Challenge

April 2024
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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 Responses to “How the Urban Challenge is scored”

  1. Ben Berry Says:
    Just wanted to say that we all appreciate the updates, and your words are being read and appreciated. Keep us posted, and keep up the good work! Good luck, and go pack!
  2. Martin Burkhart Says:
    Looks like some more positive runs. Thanks for the updates. Tell everyone that we’re rooting for you.
  3. Ed Beroset Says:
    Thanks very much for describing this in such detail. I know it must be difficult to post all of that after what must be some very long days. Sounds like y’all are doing well, as we thought that you would.
  4. Jim Taggart Says:
    Thanks for the detailed update. Great news about running course B without a problem. I have confidence, but will keep my fingers crossed for Thursday. Good luck!

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