Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another step toward robotcar

When I was last at Megantic I saw the DARPA robot car challenge at least 6 times on television, for those that do not know about it here what it was. The US army devised a 1M$ price for the creators of the first robotic car able to follow on it's own a 132 miles course through the desert while dodging obstacle and the other robot car. It was won by a team last year and another 4 or 5 car had completed the race. Now the US army came up with another challenge that should be much more difficult for robots to achieve on their own.

Participating teams will have to design a robot that will be able to navigate city street with city traffics while following traffics law and not causing an accident or hitting anything. Considering the number of moving vehicles involved and the difficulty of following traffics law this should be a very interesting challenge indeed. I don't know how much freedom they want the car to be able to have but since it involve dealing with traffic and city driving I can assume that means dealing with "unexpected situation" (like construction in a previously planed path that force you to choose a new one).

I can already imagine having to build a robot that would follow traffic signs and be able to "understand" traffic regulation such as speed limits. Now it is clear that since the military are sponsoring the event that it is for military application (this time apparently to perform supply mission in urban environment) but I believe that the artificial intelligence developed for this project will surely be able to be used in other area. And beside I think that only the challenge of doing a robot capable of succeeding in that task is worth pursuing.

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