October 24, 2007

MIT creates the first fully-autonomous Land Rover

DARPA Land Rover LR3
DARPA Land Rover LR3. Click image to enlarge

Irvine, California – Land Rover has donated an LR3 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the vehicle has been built to be fully autonomous for the upcoming 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. The LR3 is able to drive itself and perform simple tasks, such as avoiding obstacles and merging into moving traffic, without human driver assistance or remote control.

The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Urban Challenge is an annual competition for autonomous vehicles, which compete against each other in several different rounds. The first vehicle to successfully complete and win the race was “Stanley”, a modified Volkswagen Touareg, in 2005.

The LR3 is able to “view” the environment and track its own motion while driving on major roads or moving through cities, using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) range finders with vision sensors to help avoid obstacles. To track its progress, the vehicle uses a combination of GPS (Global Positioning System) and INS (Inertial Navigation system). So equipped, the vehicle can locate itself within a half-metre anywhere in the world, giving it the ability to stay on the road at all times.

After successfully completing the qualifying round in early August, Team MIT and the LR3 have been invited to compete in the semi-final round, taking place from October 26 to 31, with the goal of making it to the final competition. The DARPA final event will be held in Victorville, California on November 3, 2007.

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