Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have modified a Land Rover LR3 that will take part in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.
Without human driver assistance or remote control, the vehicle is able to drive itself and perform simple tasks such as avoiding obstacles and merging into moving traffic.
The LR3 is equipped with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) range finders with vision sensors to view the environment, helping it avoid obstacles that might get in its way. In order to track its progress along the roads, the vehicle uses a combination of GPS (Global Positioning System) and INS (Inertial Navigation System).
With this combination of technology, the vehicle can locate itself within half of a metre anywhere in the world, giving it the ability to stay on road at all times. By grouping these technologies, the LR3 can navigate itself while avoiding anything that might get in its way.
The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Urban Challenge is an annual competition where several autonomous vehicles, like the specialised LR3, compete against each other in several different rounds.
After successfully completing the qualifying round in early August, Team MIT and the LR3 have been invited back to compete in the challenging semi-final round taking place on October 26-31, with the goal of making it to the final competition.
The DARPA Urban Challenge final event will be held in Victorville, California, on November 3. During the competition, the vehicles will need to traverse through a 60-mile mock city course within six hours, and will be challenged with tasks while completing a stipulated route.
Some of these tasks include executing simulated supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding various obstacles – all without a driver or a remote control.