Carnegie Mellon University's Sandstorm robot, being groomed for the 2005 Grand Challenge desert race, made four successful runs yesterday during tests by DARPA evaluators at the Nevada Automotive Test Center near Carson City.
Successful performance in these tests is critical to Sandstorm being chosen as a semi-finalist in the quest to enter the Grand Challenge, a 175-mile rumble for robots that will take place Oct. 8, 2005 and net the winner a $2 million prize.
Race officials evaluated Sandstorm's performance during three timed 200-meter runs that tested its ability to navigate among waypoints, stay within course boundaries and avoid randomly placed obstacles, in this case, trashcans placed by the evaluators. During the first run, Sandstorm clocked a top speed of 23.9 miles-per-hour, with elapsed time of 25.9 seconds. In the second run, top speed was 24.1 miles-per-hour, with elapsed time of 26.07 seconds, and the third run top speed was 24.6 miles-per-hour with elapsed time of 25.5 seconds.
Sandstorm also successfully tackled a 1,000-meter optional run. Maneuvering itself through hairpin curves and following trails strewn with boulders, it clocked an average speed of 10.9 miles-per-hour during a three-minute, 23 second run.
Sandstorm, a veteran of the first Grand Challenge, is the robot that set records for speed and distance during that event, which took place on March 13, 2004. This year there are two teams carrying the university banner. Carnegie Mellon's H1ghlander robot also performed successfully for DARPA evaluators when it was tested in Pittsburgh on May 4 at the site of the former LTV steelworks in the city's Hazelwood section.
Sandstorm and H1ghlander, created by Carnegie Mellon's Red Team and Red Team too, under the leadership of robotics professor William Red Whittaker, are among 118 teams hosting site evaluations. When the evaluations are complete, the field will be cut to 40 semi-finalists. Ultimately, 20 vehicles will race. DARPA will announce the semi-finalists on June 1.