Caterpillar Inc. and Carnegie Mellon Strengthen Team Support To Win 2005 Grand Challenge Desert Race

BY Byron Spice - Thu, 2005-08-25 12:00  Printer-friendly version

PITTSBURGH—Caterpillar Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines, is strengthening its support of Carnegie Mellon University's Red Team to help them win the DARPA Grand Challenge on Oct. 8, 2005, in the desert southwest.

The company, an early supporter and enduring technical pillar of the team, has stepped up to provide additional resources and is now its premier sponsor. Caterpillar officials made the announcement when the team and its two robot racers, Sandstorm and H1ghlander, made a recent whistle-stop appearance at the company's world headquarters in Peoria, Ill. The team is heading west to the Nevada Automotive Test Center (NATC) near Carson City, Nev., to begin final preparations for the Grand Challenge semifinals September 27 through October 5. The final race field, comprising 20 teams, will be announced on October 5.

"We are pleased to be part of this innovative and challenging race, designed to test the next generation of automated equipment so essential to the advancement of America's industrial sector where Caterpillar is such a key component," said Mark Pflederer, vice president of Caterpillar's Technology & Solutions Division. "Working closely with Carnegie Mellon gives us a unique window into the cutting-edge world of robotics and information technology."

"Premier sponsorship is the dream of every race team, and it doesn't get much better than Caterpillar," said Red Team leader and Carnegie Mellon robotics professor William "Red" Whittaker. "It's a great company, a great Red Team collaborator and a great friend to Carnegie Mellon. Moreover, Caterpillar is absolutely committed to winning the Grand Challenge with us." Whittaker noted that the Carnegie Mellon/Caterpillar collaboration is built on a long-standing relationship to co-develop automated equipment, including driverless trucks and unmanned excavators. Caterpillar and Carnegie Mellon are co-inventors of GPS guidance for off-road machines, computer planning for robotic digging and operator-assistance for loading trucks.

Many Caterpillar technologies like steering, sensing and software are embedded in the Red Team's robots. Cat's MorElectric system generates power and regulates cooling. Caterpillar electronics control the engines.

Early on, Caterpillar embedded Josh Struble within the team. A bright young engineer, Struble is in charge of the drive-by-wire system for H1ghlander, the Red Team's new Grand Challenge 2005 vehicle. He brings extensive experience using rugged Cat controllers and components to ensure a reliable drive-by-wire system.

H1ghlander and Sandstorm completed their readiness testing in Pittsburgh early in August, driving through a strip mine, and brownfield sites, and logging some 200 consecutive miles on local racing tracks. Now they are testing in Nevada where vehicles achieve high performance and reliability.

Plans call for four weeks of daily tests and practice on NATC courses. During the next two weeks, the team will master race-like scenarios and freeze peak performance. During the final two weeks, the team will practice procedures for qualifying in the semi-finals and for race day.

"For Caterpillar and Carnegie Mellon, the Grand Challenge is much more than a driverless desert race," said Whittaker. "We are racing for the future."

For more information on the Red Team, see www.redteamracing.org.
For more information on Caterpillar Inc., see www.Caterpillar.com.

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice [atsymbol] cs.cmu.edu