View Full Version : Robotic VX to compete again!

05/01/2006, 10:00 PM
Some of you may have seen the NOVA special about the Great Robot Race:


Yes, that's our VX in the amusing section ;ooo; ... the VX detects the parked car and picks the wrong side (left) quickly slamming on the brakes in a panic to avoid the concrete barrier. That was at the qualifying event in the semi-finals... we didn't make it to the race.

Today DARPA announced the next Grand Challenge, the Urban Challenge... 60 miles of dealing with traffic, pulling out of parking spots, making left-hand turns at busy intersections, merging into traffic, etc. It is not off-road (some unpaved roads with potholes perhaps) but nothing to challenge the VX. We are still happy with our choice of vehicle. We have a year to write the software and then half a year of testing ahead of us.
I've been busy since the race with the software... Yes fellow VX'ers we are still in the game.


05/01/2006, 10:59 PM
This'll be interesting -most human beings can't even deal with traffic.

05/02/2006, 06:43 AM
looking foreward to some vdeo of this

05/02/2006, 08:14 AM
Glad to see you guys are still "tinkering" around with the RoboVX! Was wondering what had happened to you guys. Keep us updated of the progress. This challenge should make the last one seem like a walk in the park. Good luck!

06/01/2006, 08:06 AM
WormGod has contributed his 3D model of the VX to the cause! We will be using the 3D model as part of our visualization tool to better understand the behavior of our robot and its perception of the environment. This contribution is very much appreciated... vehicross.info rocks! Gary rocks! :thanx:

06/01/2006, 08:11 AM
Good luck to the team Art. I am just glad to see the model getting some worthy use. :)

06/01/2006, 08:24 AM
I know of a maroon Mercury that ALMOST negotiated it's way around a car and a bus and through on-coming Southbound traffic to make a U-turn into Northbound traffic and INTO MY PATH! Perhaps you could brain-tap the driver and put his skill to use. Let me know if I need to collect the head. Sorry, just a little bitter...deep breath...


06/01/2006, 08:28 AM
Yeah, human drivers can be dangerous... maybe someday robots will do a better job.
But for now, you know what they say "To err is human....to really foul things up requires a computer." :eek:

06/02/2006, 09:43 AM
Very cool!!! Glad this place and all of it's connections can be of help..

Keep up the dream!!

10/29/2006, 05:29 AM
We are one of 89 teams competing in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. We are partnering with the Computer Science department at The University of Texas (Robotics/Artificial Intelligence). Checkout a recent picture of our VX with the Texas license plate "ROBOT" :

http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/2/thumbs/ART_Velodyne_1.jpg (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/data/2/ART_Velodyne_1.jpg)

Here's our official picture (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/images/Team_Pics/Track_B_Teams/AustinRobotTechnology_3.jpg) at the DARPA website.

10/29/2006, 02:24 PM
Sweet, so how much $$ is sitting on/in that thing right now?

10/29/2006, 07:18 PM
And do you have closer pictures of the roof rack? I would love to know how you are securing things up there.

12/04/2006, 07:31 PM
Sorry for the late reply... I've uploaded a picture to the gallery, click here (http://www.vehicross.info/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=8048) .

The picture shows how we mount sensors onto our robotic VX (Ironman Edition). We bolted a specially laminated sensor board, a.k.a. an old formica table-top :-) to the roof rack, then bolt the sensors to the formica tabletop... errrr sensor board. The blue "snorkel" is used to route wires from the sensors to the inside of the vehicle (the side window is replaced with a transparent acrylic panel and the snorkel is attached with a seal to the panel). The big sensor on the roof is a 200 pound rotating laser. It has 64 lasers that each capture over 4,000 points 360 degrees around the car, 20 times per second (a 5 milion point cloud per second). It was built by another team for last year's competition, we tested it. They are selling a much smaller and lighter version of it now as a product... price tag is $75K.

Although it would be a lot of work, we could actually restore the VX to its original condition. We had a couple of scrapes in last years qualifying event, you'd have to look closely to notice them.

10/25/2007, 06:29 PM
Competition starts tomorrow... our robotic VX is one of 35 vehicles ready to take on DARPA's Urban Challenge:


Hopefully it won't be a demolition derby :rolleyes::rolleyes:

10/25/2007, 06:46 PM
awesome good luck man! ill be rootin for ya

10/25/2007, 10:17 PM
Thanks for the update.
Good luck in the urban setting.
Be sure to let us know how it goes...

...And of course PICTURES PICTURES PICTURES!!!!!!!

Scott Harness
10/26/2007, 09:10 AM
Front page of the Dallas Morning News- Pictures and two page story-named Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

10/26/2007, 10:59 AM

10/26/2007, 12:11 PM
And a little VIDEO (http://www.dallasnews.com/video/dallasnews/hp/index.html?nvid=186813)
There are a bunch of pics I took of the VX on this site if you do a search. Pics of the exterior and interior modifications (these are from its 1st incarnation...it has been updated since) which I took when I met up with them as they roled through Tucson after their last DARPA competition. Great bunch of guys and an impressive amount of time and engineering.

10/26/2007, 12:28 PM
This is totally cool! You guys are doing my dream job! :_drool:

I also couldn't help but notice a couple features on team Axion, that I think you should also incorperate. :rolleyes:
(They are in the center of the picture... come to think of it, why is their vehicle off to one side???) :)

10/26/2007, 12:56 PM
Team OshKoshTruck should have fun navagating this through a city...
...of course if something gets in the way it will just crush it and keep on going!

10/31/2007, 10:27 AM
Since we haven't heard an update, that must mean things are going as planned (atleast still in the competition). They are probably working 24Hrs a day to make changes before the next weekend challenge. It'll be great to hear about this when It's all over (and you guys have a chance to get some sleep). :)

10/31/2007, 02:35 PM
Pics from the comp...


Crunch time!


Unfortunately from the DARPA site it appears that they did not make the cut for the final 6 teams.:cryy:

10/31/2007, 07:17 PM
Reread that...

"Six teams (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/qualified_teams.asp) have qualified for the Urban Challenge Final Event. Testing continues, and additional qualifying vehicles will be announced November 1."

I did notice they are not yet on the "Did Not Qualify" listing:
The Golem Group (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/TheGolemGroup.asp)
Axion Racing (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/AxionRacing.asp)
Mojavaton (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/Mojavaton.asp)
Team CalTech (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/TeamCaltech.asp)
Team Jefferson (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/TeamJefferson.asp)
Team Juggernaut (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/TeamJuggernaut.asp)
Gator Nation (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/GatorNation.asp)
Team Urbanator (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/TeamUrbanator.asp)
GA Tech/SAIC (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/StingRacing.asp)
Ody-Era (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/Ody_Era.asp)
Princeton (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/PrincetonUniversity.asp)
SciAutonics (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/SciAutonicsAuburnEngineering.asp)
Team Berlin (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/TeamBerlin.asp)
Univ of Utah (http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/Teams/University_of_Utah.asp)

Good luck to Marvin & ART!

11/02/2007, 12:02 PM
Sadly, it looks like ART's VX is now out of the competition. Wish there were vids/pics of why.

11/02/2007, 04:01 PM
Bummer guys. I know you had to have put TONS of energy into this (Blood, Sweat & Tears), but I also know you had a great time and learned a bunch. This is still incredible and even though I won't be able to watch the live updates tomorrow on the other competitors, I'll be looking up info & Pics later.

11/06/2007, 12:33 PM
Updates??? I've read a bunch of great stuff about the final race, but how about our beloved VX (It didn't make it to the very end, but it did compete for a while). I'd love an update or two about the VX and what it was able to do or couldn't do, what was the last straw,...

Enquiring minds want to know! :)

11/16/2007, 08:43 AM
I was in a meeting yesterday & the Urban Challenge came up. I asked how the VX did & this was roughly the conversation:

How did the VehiCross do?

Vehi - WHAT???

The Isuzu that UT Austin entered - VehiCross.

Vehi - WHAT???

That thing that looks like it was built for a mission to mars - VehiCross.

Vehi - WHAT???

Oh, never mind.

11/16/2007, 01:33 PM
I sent a message to info@austinrobot.com and got this back:

"Thanks for the email! I don't know if my brother Art replied already or not (we both get the emails sent to "info"). I would have updated our website sooner had I known that members of the USAFA were curious about our team! Thanks for asking! The summary is that Carnegie Mellon won 1st place, Stanford won 2nd place and Virginia Tech won 3rd place. Our team was one of the top 21 teams during the semifinals. DARPA had said they would (might) take up to 21 teams to the final event so we were crossing our fingers during the announcement of the finalists. In the end DARPA decided to advance only 11 teams to the final event. DARPA Director Dr. Tony Tether made the announcement of the finalists and he said that he was riding one of the "chase" vehicles during one of the trials when the robot car they were following made a sudden U-Turn and started heading directly towards their car on a full head-on collision course... He said that's when he decided to trim the field from 21 finalists to only 11... Hopefully our team will advance to the final event for the next Grand Challenge! By the way, I can send you a link to our photo album if you are interested. Thanks for the inquiry and thanks for all you guys do for our country!


08/27/2010, 11:37 AM
I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that caused me to resurrect this thread. It read:

"In case of DARPA Challenge, this vehicle will be unmanned."

I gotta get me one of those for the VX.

08/27/2010, 12:06 PM
Welcome to the twilight zone. Someone emailed this to me moments ago (I used to work with some of the guys on FCS MULE).

Since 2003, the US military has struggled to develop a cargo-carrying robotic "mule" meant to accompany ground troops on foot patrols and into combat. The Pentagon has invested millions of dollars in a range of mule designs featuring a wide range of propulsion technologies - everything from traditional wheels and tracks to articulated legs and snake-like segments capable of "slithering."
Lockheed Martin's (http://www.flightglobal.com/landingpage/lockheed%20martin.html) XM1217, part of the Army's $200 billion Future Combat Systems suite of technologies, was the most prominent of the abandoned designs. The XM1217 - otherwise known as the Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment vehicle (MULE), based on a custom-designed, six-wheeled chassis, would have hauled up to a ton of cargo while following GPS waypoints. Two of three MULE variants - the ones aimed at fighting mines and carrying cargo - were dropped when the Future Combat Systems program was canceled due to its high cost, leaving an armed version aimed at providing heavy firepower, not carrying heavy burdens.
That leaves the US Marine Corps as the concept's only major champion. To avoid repeating the Army's budgetary and operational mistakes with the XM1217 and other designs, the Marines are emphasizing off-the-shelf automotive components combined with cutting edge - but thoroughly tested - software and sensors. The resulting vehicle might eventually form the basis of a production version, but only after a thorough wringing out. The immediate goal is to "showcase the technology through experimentation," Brent Azzarelli, the Marines' chief roboticist said.
The Marines' Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) mule - jointly designed by the Corps' Warfighting Lab, Virginia-based tech firm TORC Technologies and students at Virginia Tech beginning last year - was given its first big test at the Enhanced Company Operation, Limited Objective Experiment 4 in Hawaii in July. All four GUSS prototypes participated in realistic training events.
"In my opinion, we did real well, we collected a lot of data," and GUSS performed well, Azzarelli says. GUSS is scheduled for improvements to its sensors and autonomy systems and will take part in further Marine Corps experiments over the next couple of years.
The Warfighting Lab, headquartered in Quantico, Virginia, says GUSS "seeks to reduce the dependence of dispersed ground combat elements on external resupply, provide a means to reduce the loads carried by Marines and provide an immediate means for casualty evacuation. The robotic aspects of GUSS enable these functions with no additional manpower and reduced exposure of Marines to lethal enemy actions."
"In short," the release continued, "GUSS lightens the load." But it must do so on some of the world's toughest terrain and in austere conditions, all without costing too much. Otherwise, GUSS could soon join previous mules in the scrap heap of abandoned robot designs.
"We tried not to reinvent the wheel," Azzarelli said. All of GUSS' major components originated from outside the program. The base vehicle is a stock MZ700 6x6 utility vehicle from Polaris. TORC provides all the black boxes from its line of modular automation kits. The algorithms come from Virginia Tech's third-place entry in the 2007 Urban Challenge robot race hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
TORC and Virginia Tech were a package deal (TORC was founded by university alums). In designing its Urban Challenge racer, Virginia Tech purposefully used TORC black boxes - "so that the technology developed around Urban Challenge could be commercialized quickly," says Alfred Wicks, a Virginia Tech professor working on GUSS.
Wicks' students handled the integration work. "To convert this to an autonomous vehicle, there were a number of modifications," Patrick Currier, a Virginia Tech Ph.D. student, says. "We installed computers, installed a number of sensors to allow the vehicle to operate autonomously and send video back to its operator. We installed a number of cargo-carrying racks, converted it to drive-by-wire, added actuators to the throttle, gear shift and brakes."
"For the conversion, we did it such that a human operator can get in the vehicle and take over control," Currier added. But most of GUSS' missions are autonomous or remotely operated, project officer Capt. Adorjan Ferenczy explains. "We want to conduct dismounted and mounted ops, point-to-point resupply, casevac, reconnaissance, tele-operations and operation by a live driver."
For interfacing with its human masters, GUSS comes with two options, according to TORC's Andrew Culhane. "The two input devices are a Mac-based [control unit] for mission planning using typical mil-standard symbols for checkpoints, rally points and objectives, and a handheld waypoint device operated as a follow-me device and navigation beacon."
Autonomous operation based on advance mission planning will represent GUSS' basic mode. Compared with previous mule systems, GUSS is more flexible and intelligent in its autonomy. This represents the Marines' effort to address the Army's concern that previous mules weren't "appropriate" for modern battlefields.
Just a few years ago, many ground robots could operate only in environments that were "very structured," Culhane says. They were "highly dependent on GPS and flat surfaces."
"GUSS is designed not be reliant on GPS or roads," Culhane continues. "It uses lidar for determining terrain features and obstacles and, based on the selected mission, if it knows it needs to progress towards the Marines, it will look for the most traversable path to get to the Marines, not relying on high-accuracy GPS, instead utilizing traversability to determine a path from point A to point B."
At the moment, GUSS is equipped only with electro-optical sensors, Azzarelli says. "After LOE4, if we go into development, in fiscal year '11 we will improve perception and add a nighttime infrared camera."
The Warfighting Lab is betting that improved autonomy and the cost savings resulting from off-the-shelf components will justify GUSS' continued development beyond this summer's experiment. "Today, there is not formal program of record requirement for this type of capability," Azzarelli said. "We're hoping to influence requirements generation to provide a capability in the Marine Corps."

08/27/2010, 12:47 PM
Let's go... Hokies! :D

08/27/2010, 02:47 PM
:bwgy: :smilewink :bgwo: :bgwb: