Asked Questions (Media)
Q: Why is DARPA
holding the Grand Challenge?
A: We have two goals for the Grand Challenge. The first is to accelerate
the development of technologies for autonomous ground vehicle operation.
The second is to reach out to people with good ideas that don’t
normally do business with DoD, and try to get them involved.
Q: If no one
completes this Grand Challenge within the required timeframe, will you
do it again? Will you hold Grand Challenges on other topics in the future?
A: If no one completes the route within the prescribed 10 hours, we do
plan to conduct the Challenge again approximately annually. We also are
considering other Grand Challenges on other topics in the future, but
we have not yet made any decision regarding the topics or the timeframe.
Q: What additional
autonomous ground vehicle technology is needed by the military? What are
the capabilities of current unmanned ground vehicles?
A: DARPA and the military are investing in autonomous ground vehicle technology
development. We are making progress, but want to push the technology forward
more quickly. In particular, DARPA is interested in fostering advances
in sensing, behavior and mobility technologies. Current unmanned ground
vehicles rely on a person to operate the vehicle remotely. Those that
have some autonomous capabilities (i.e., do not use a human operator)
tend to move very slowly and have difficulty traversing terrain with minimal
obstacles. In order for unmanned ground vehicles to be truly useful to
the military, they must be able to cross rugged terrain quickly and easily
without needing human assistance.
Q: Has anything
like this been done before?
A: DARPA has not held a Grand Challenge before. There are other robotic
competitions, but they are much smaller in scope (i.e., robo-soccer competitions).
Q: How will
autonomous ground vehicle technology benefit the military?
A: The military is looking toward a future in which manned and unmanned
systems work together on the ground and in the air to provide enhanced
capabilities for U.S. forces. For an example of the utility of unmanned
ground systems, consider Operation Iraqi Freedom. The combat troops moved
quickly toward Baghdad, and were followed by supplies and materiel. Protecting
the supply lines was critical. In the future, unmanned systems may be
able to conduct resupply missions without using humans as drivers, and
without requiring additional troops for protection.
Q: How many
teams have entered? Who are the teams that have entered? Are the entered
teams made up of large companies, universities, single entrepreneurs?
A: Teams that have submitted entries are listed at http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/teams.htm.
You should contact the teams to find out more about who is included in
each team. Teams can submit their entry any time between April 1 and October
Q: What does
the route look like? Will the teams be given the route in advance?
A: The specific route will not be given to the teams until shortly before
the Challenge begins. The route will include surfaced and un-surfaced
roads, trails, and off-road areas. Man-made and natural obstacles—both
above and below the surface of the average terrain—are likely. Examples
of obstacles include ditches, open water, rocks, underpasses, construction,
and other vehicles. All obstructions on the route can be either accommodated
or avoided by a commercial 4X4 pick-up truck. For illustrations of a typical
route, see http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/conference/route.pdf.
Note: please download
the latest Acrobat
Reader if you have trouble viewing PDF files.
Q: How are
you handling safety issues? Will the Challenge vehicles have to mingle
with regular road traffic?
A: The route will be cleared of all pedestrian and vehicle traffic while
being used by the Challenge vehicles. The Challenge vehicles will be accompanied
by a manned safety vehicle, and will have an emergency-stop capability
that can be activated by the safety vehicle if necessary. In addition,
people will be stationed along the route to monitor the route and the
Q: Do the vehicles
have to be totally autonomous, or can there be some human assistance?
A: The vehicles must be totally autonomous. No human assistance is permitted.
Q: Are you
specifying the design of the Challenge vehicles?
A: No. There is no restriction on the vehicle size or the type of mobility
approach used, other than the restrictions imposed by the route itself.
Q: Will the
public be able to view the vehicles as they traverse the Challenge route?
A: Although the details are still being determined, we envision viewing
areas at the departure and arrival areas, as well as designated media
points interspersed along the route.
Q: Have you
specified the departure and arrival locations?
A: The Challenge vehicles will depart from the Barstow, Calif., area.
The arrival location in Las Vegas is still being determined.