Four robotic vehicles finished a Pentagon-sponsored race across the Mojave desert Saturday and achieved a technological milestone by conquering steep drop-offs, obstacles and tunnels over a rugged 132-mile course without a single human command.Coming Soon, probably sooner than 2085 too.
The vehicles, guided by sophisticated software, gave scientists hope that robots could one day wage battles without endangering soldiers.
Thron says the technology developed for the race will help the Pentagon reach its goal of having one-third of its vehicles be driverless within ten years, but will mean safer cars within a few years.
The so-called Grand Challenge race is part of the Pentagon's effort to cut the risk of casualties by fulfilling a congressional mandate to have a third of all military ground vehicles unmanned by 2015.
Last year's much-hyped inaugural robot race ended without a winner when all the self-navigating vehicles broke down shortly after leaving the starting gate. Carnegie Mellon's Sandstorm chugged the farthest at 7 1/2 miles.
Of the 23 robots that competed Saturday, 18 vehicles failed to navigate the entire 132-mile course, but most still managed to beat Sandstorm's mileage last year.
The unmanned vehicles must use their computer brains and sensing devices to follow a programmed route and avoid hitting obstacles that may doom their chances.
Vehicles have to drive on rough, winding desert roads and dry lake beds filled with overhanging brush and man-made obstacles. The machines also must traverse a narrow 1.3-mile mountain pass with a steep drop-off and go through three tunnels designed to knock out their GPS signals.
The military currently has a small fleet of autonomous ground vehicles stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the machines are remotely controlled by a soldier who usually rides in the same convoy. The Pentagon wants to eliminate the human factor and use self-thinking robotic vehicles to ferry supplies in war zones.
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
From CNN :