Fifty three teams from around the world have been culled from 89 initial entries to advance to the next stage of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) Urban Challenge competition for autonomous robot vehicles.
In June, agency personnel will visit the teams to asses whether their vehicles can operate safely. The evaluation will be based on navigating a test course including a four-way intersection and live traffic. The Urban Challenge, which will take place at a yet to be announced site on November 3, 2007, will include merging into moving traffic, traffic circles, intersections, as well as avoiding obstacles, much like DARPA's previous Grand Challenge desert-race contest.
Of the teams selected in the current round, four are from Germany, and one each from Mexico, Canada, and France. Next competition milestone is selection of 30 semi-finalists and announcement of the competition site on August 10.
Purpose of the Urban Challenge is to have the autonomous vehicles run simulated military supply missions, and eventually could lead to keeping U.S. military personnel out of harm's way. The technology could also be adapted to future passenger cars having more autonomous features, aiding elderly and disabled drivers.