Today we reached over 20 kilometers of autonomous driving! Nomad has driven itself through 10 percent of its 200 kilometer trek this summer. And it did so with confidence that the way was clear, since it uses pairs of video cameras to determine the distance to objects in front of it. This "stereo vision system" generates a new elevation map every second, and Nomad uses that map to determine whether there is anything in its way. If Nomad notices an obstacle, it tries to steer around it, but even if the turn is too sharp Nomad will stop itself in front of the obstacle. This capability is of critical importance for future planetary exploration, as it will allow robots to explore ever greater distances, without always requiring a human operator to guide it. Nomad drove itself for 1760 meters, or just over a mile today.
We were visited by workers from the Museum of San Pedro and their families today. We are glad they got the chance to visit, as people have been asking them all summer about our activities. They arrived just as the day was ending, as Deepak was finishing some more communications testing. Actually, they arrived during the tests, and Deepak (who does not speak Spanish) was a bit flustered; he radioed for help, so while I was driving to the robot to help him I asked our visitors if they would mind waiting a few minutes. That is, I asked them in Spanish over the radio; Deepak held it close so they could hear. The visitors understood right away, but our conversation confused the folks in the operations truck who thought I had forgotten to turn off my radio.
Folks from Entel arrived today to prepare for a press conference tomorrow. There will be a gathering of reporters, officials, and Amigos de Nomad, people from organizations without whose help we could not have accomplished our goals this summer. The plan is to have a live broadcast, during which we will answer questions from an auditorium in Santigo, the capital of Chile about 1000 kilometers (600 miles) to the south. Throughout the summer Entel has provided us with satellite phones, backup satellite equipment, a project web page in Spanish, and support for live TV transmissions. We are extremely grateful for their support of our operations.
Finally, Nomad was driven from the Carnegie Science Center in safeguarded mode for 263 meters.