appreciating the elegance of a really efficient gosub routine
(heck, they probably don’t even have gosubs in modern
programming languages, do they?). So, I asked Bob what
all the cool sensors on Boss’ roof and bumpers were:
• Roof: Three GPS antennas to determine not only location
but also orientation of Boss; Velodyne HDL-64E 64-laser
LIDAR rotating at 10 Hz.
• Roof Sides: Panheads for monitoring side traffic and obstacles.
• Roof and Inside: Big red panic buttons to shut down and
stop the car.
• Back Bumper Sides: Two close-range radars.
• Back Bumper Center: Planar LIDAR and long-range radar.
• Front Bumper: More radar and LIDAR short- and long-range sensors.
52 SERVO 08.2008
• Junk in the Trunk: Racks with 10 Intel dual-core processors,
data-logging equipment, a Planix that processes the GPS data
and also takes inertial motion and encoder data to determine
location when GPS signals are not available, the remote kill
device (contrary to the saw blade deployment components on
a BattleBot, this box is used simply to pause and unpause
Boss), and a whole lot of cable ties to keep it all tidy.
I asked Bob if they’ve ever gone on joyrides faster than
the 30 mph speed limit imposed by the DARPA Urban
Challenge rules. I got the boiler plate “I can neither confirm
nor deny ...” routine, but he did point out that they’ve set
up the hardware and software to work and react at 30 mph.
So, we’ve probably got a few years until these smart guys
can get their robot cars up to typical Champ Car speeds.
To make its driving look effortless and professional,
Boss uses prior knowledge of the course combined with
on-the-fly decision-making. The course can be outlined from
satellite images or by driving the course prior to the event
and recording waypoint locations. Of course, the more prior
information known, the more successful the course navigation will be. Don’t roll your eyes — the same applies to us
fleshy and indecisive humans too! For the DARPA Urban
Challenge, they were provided with a sparse set of waypoints, so Boss proved that it was versatile and robust by
still navigating DARPA’s course (and the Long Beach Grand
Prix race course) excellently, although they still deferred to
a human driver to drive Boss to and from the track. Boss
probably would not have dealt well with the dozens of
people crowding around him, as well as the strange obstacles
(tents, strollers, golf karts, swing-out race track entry/exit
barriers, etc.) creating mayhem in and around the pits.
“WE’RE WORKING ON THAT”
(No, that’s not its real name — it truly does
not have a name — call Marketing, quick!)
Former Life: 2006 Toyota Prius
Named After: See above
Pedigree: Riding on the coattails of its twin “Little Ben”
(fraternal twin, not identical twin, as Little Ben’s brother
has only two-elevenths as many sensors as Little Ben), who
placed 6th in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, unless you
ask somebody on Little Ben’s team, who points out that
Little Ben placed 4th out of the teams that finished within
the rules. “What rules were broken?” “They collided with
other vehicles. One in particular had it out for us, it seemed
— they tried to hit us twice.”
Team: Ben Franklin Racing Team: University of Pennsylvania,
with Lehigh University and Lockheed Martin
Build Time: 18 months between initial concept and DARPA
Cost: $250,000 of parts, and “a lot of free student labor”
Turn-Ons: KISS (the acronym, not the band with their