Back a few entries we showed a project car that was entered in this year’s DARPA Challenge. It is based on Lotus Elise donated by Lotus Cars and being developed by a group known as Insight Racing in North Carolina.
A few nights ago the Insight Racing team brought the Lone Wolf (as the car is called) out in public to show the people of Raleigh just what this contender was made of.
Well over 300 people came out to the NC State Campus to view the car, ask questions of the development team, and have an opportunity to view this marvel in action as it autonomously navigated its way around the parking lot.
The DARPA Challenge will be far more demanding, but none the less, it was very impressive to see a totally computer controlled vehicle find its own way around the tarmac.
The Lone Wolf is one of 36 teams that will compete in the semi-finals to be held in California October 26-31. The top 20 will go on to the finals. These will take place on a former military base in Victorville, California. This will provide an environment to test these robotic cars that is comparable to the environments that the military experiences in overseas deployments.
The Lotus has been transformed into a computer controlled robot that uses multiple technologies to allow it to determine the most efficient route to take, deal with any obstacles, and obey standard rules of the road including 4-way stops. The top speed that this contest will be run at is 30 mph, but there will be other vehicles that the cars will have to contend with during their test.
It was fascinating to see the continual improvements of the Lone Wolf as the application of the technologies is further refined. The crowd was impressed with the array of sensors as well as the multitude of processors that were packed in this diminutive package.
The high point was when the car was allowed to drive on its own around the parking lot. First it was done with a passenger in the driver’s seat who held his hands out the window for all to see and then the car navigated with no human passenger at all.