The DARPA Grand Challenge – Development of an Autonomous Vehicle


The DARPA Grand Challenge (DGC) was an opportunity to test autonomous vehicles in a competitive situation. In addition to intelligent behaviour, the participating vehicles must also exhibit ruggedness and endurance in order to survive the fast ride over rough terrain (“win with the software – lose with the hardware”). The SciAutonics teams decided to use compact and agile vehicles that employ proven mechanical designs very suitable for the desert environment. 4-wheel drive ensures robust controllability even in slippery ground, and a roll cage protects the vehicle components from damage in case of a collision. The control system relies primarily on a differential GPS (Starfire) and a set of inertial sensors for navigating between the given set of waypoints. A sensor suite using infrared laser (LIDAR) and ultrasound sensing provides the capability of obstacle avoidance and path following. This paper shows the components of the vehicle and results from driving at the DGC.