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Linux well-represented at DARPA robot vehicle challenge

Oct 10, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

A Stanford-designed robotic car has driven away with the $2M prize in the second DARPA Challenge, a 175-mile race for autonomous vehicles held this weekend in the Mojave desert south of Las Vegas. Four of 23 vehicles completed the course, including several that used Linux.

(Click for larger view of “Stanley”)

Stanford's Stanley crosses the finish line

In its first-hand, preliminary coverage of the qualification rounds leading up to the event, TG Daily reports that “most of the teams are using Linux/Unix variants.” However, at least one entry ran Windows XP — Team Mojavaton “Xboxx” entry used a 2001 Nissan Xterra with a wire drive system based on dual-Xeon processors. It failed to finish the main event, after placing first in the qualifiers, the journal reports.

Another non-Linux car, a modified Taureg entered by Team Banzai, ran Mac OS X, according to TG Daily (though it could be argued that Mac OS X is a variant of BSD Unix).

Stanford's team has published few technical details about its winning “Stanley” car, and the team did not confirm by press time that the car's autonomous computer systems are based on Linux. The car is based on a VW Taureg SUV, with seven Pentium M-powered computers mounted in the trunk in a fault-tolerant configuration.

CMU Hummer

The second- and third-place teams were designed by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), which has a history of using Linux in its robotic projects. CMU's Linux-powered Hummer fared the best of 15 entries in last year's DARPA challenge, making eight miles before dropping one wheel off of a cliff, where it spun until catching fire and being extinguished by follow-car personnel.

Team Jefferson's Tommy

One Linux- and Java-powered entry, Tommy, failed to qualify after a chip failure caused the car to run into a wall at 70mph in a qualifying run, according to Charlottesville's Cavalier Daily. Tommy is sponsored in part by semiconductor company VIA.

Oshkosh TerraMax
(Click to enlarge)

Another interesting entry, the six-ton Oshkosh TerraMax, failed to complete the course within the 10-hour cut-off time, but was allowed to keep going, and finished by sunset. Oshkosh is known to have used Linux in some of its vehicles' computing systems.

Team Blue

One especially interesting entry is Berkeley's Team Blue, which entered a riderless motorcycle called “Ghost Rider” that came close to qualifying, according to reports.

Additional details about the event can be found at the official race website, here. A Newsforge story from May discusses the use of Linux in a 2004 DARPA contest entry from the University of Central Florida.

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