Urban Robot Race


“Never underestimate the power of people willing to take on a challenge.”
- Ron Kurjanowicz, Grand Challenge Program Manager,

Urban Challenge Participants Conference, Reston, VA, May 20, 2006

DARPA has granted prize money of $3.5 million for its milestone urban robotics race next November.

The urban road race is an unbelievable challenge. 

First a bit of History of the Challenge:

The first Grand Challenge took place in 2004 on a desert course stretching from Barstow, California to Primm, Nevada, but did not produce a finisher. At the second DARPA Grand Challenge, held in 2005, the Stanford Racing Team completed the 212.4 km (132-mile) course in just under 7 hours to win a US$2M prize.  The participants raced in the first long distance competition for robot cars in the world

Both the first and second DARPA Grand Challenge competitions advanced the technologies needed to create the first fully autonomous ground vehicles capable of completing a substantial off-road course within a limited time.

The 2007 Urban Challenge:  This one will be tough

On May 1, 2006, DARPA announced that there would be a third Grand Challenge race. It will occur on November 3, 2007 at an “undisclosed location in the western U.S.” It will consist of a 60 mile course on primarily paved roads, but this time, the vehicles will have to drive in traffic. They will have to stop at stop signs, look for other vehicles, obey the rules of precedence at intersections, obey traffic laws (don’t cross double yellow center lines), pass other stationary and slow moving cars,  back up, park, make a U-turn and plan a new course when the main road is blocked, and take evasive action if a collision with another vehicle is imminent. Sort of makes a 132 mile drive on a closed course in the desert seem like a walk in the park.


Medical Tie- In.  For some time I have been speaking about the coming radical transformation of medicine.  I have written before about the “fantastic voyage” surgical idea.  In this 1966 movie, a submarine and its scientis/doctor team are shrunk down and inected into the body to diagnose and treat a blood clot (they use a laser of course.  You can see past posts about rmars rover technology in medicine here, an implantable cardiac robot here and a self-propelled swimming robot here.  My podcast that reviews the coming surgical revolution including self-contained miniature robots here. 


Makiing a little med rover in the body does not seem so hard compared to the urban challenge or hte mars rover.

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