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Desert Robot Race Update, With Video 180

Posted by timothy
from the mmm-mpeg dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Several teams have moved forward with their bid to run the Barstow-Vegas Desert Robot Race (For those not familiar check out http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge ). As of today 55 teams are registered, some of the most interesting are Cal Tech, AI Magic, and the Red Team out of Carnegie Mellon. Also fishing around the Red Team site, there is a pretty nifty video."
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Desert Robot Race Update, With Video

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  • Yet another interesting project with a lot of geek value which will eventually be used to kill people by remote control...

    Sucks.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Would you prefer they just drop a 5,000lb bomb instead? A side effect of more efficient mechanisms for killing is that there are less inadvertant civilian casualties. Just compare the fire bombings of Dresden to the wars in Kosovo and Iraq. Which method do you prefer?
      • Would you prefer they just drop a 5,000lb bomb instead? A side effect of more efficient mechanisms for killing is that there are less inadvertant civilian casualties. Just compare the fire bombings of Dresden to the wars in Kosovo and Iraq. Which method do you prefer?

        I would prefer it be very difficult to kill people in general. That way, we'd only do it when we really needed to.

        If you look at history, anytime one side was able to kill the other without having to really risk themselves, the shitty side

        • If you look at history, anytime one side was able to kill the other without having to really risk themselves, the shitty side of history results -- genocide, oppression, etc. Just because it's your side that happens to have the better guns, tech, germs or whatever doesn't mean it's a Good Thing.

          Don't you mean anytime one side's leaders?

          Or, put another way, it's easier to be yelling "Bring it on" when you're half a world away from the battlefield. One of the big changes in modern warfare is that wars a

        • 70% of Americans believe Iraq sponsored 9-11

          Please tell me you pulled that number out of your arse. If you didn't, I think American commonsense has surrendered.

        • by boomgopher (627124) on Monday September 08, 2003 @12:50AM (#6897423) Journal
          I just don't think that most geeks would want to be a part of it if they really thought it over, which is why I said what I did.

          Well yeah, and North Korea is probably using Linux to track which 'anti-revolutionaries' and their families to kill or lock up in concentration camps.
          So should we stop coding? That's the world we live in man.


        • I would prefer it be very difficult to kill people in general. That way, we'd only do it when we really needed to.

          Everyone prefers not to kill (except the murderous bastards). This is a straw-man position, and politically naive.

          If you look at history, anytime one side was able to kill the other without having to really risk themselves, the shitty side of history results -- genocide, oppression, etc. Just because it's your side that happens to have the better guns, tech, germs or whatever doesn't mean it's a Good Thing.

          No, if you look at history, shitty things happen all the time. There is evidence to the contrary: when forces are balanced, then only the tension builds, not the solution (eventually the tension breaks with very bad results: UK-DE before WWI, US-JP before WWII, UK-FR 100 years war, GR-Persia...). The only time peace occurs is when overwhelming force exists on one side (the benevolent side).

          Hell, look at us: We've been way out ahead for, what, 20 years now and already we're invading other nations so our political leaders can distract the masses from economic problems or the fact that they can't stop terrorism (70% of Americans believe Iraq sponsored 9-11, and why not? They're ay-rabs, ain't they?).

          How does political trolling like this get modded up to +5?

          Anyhow, I understand that we live in reality and that these things happen. I just don't think that most geeks would want to be a part of it if they really thought it over, which is why I said what I did.

          "Most geeks" is a spurious term. If you think they are all left-leaning pinkos, you`re wrong. If you think they`re Edvard Teller madmen, you`re wrong. Geeks are all over the spectrum. I would imagine there are some geeks who lost their brothers/fathers/sisters/mothers in 9-11, and would have no qualms in putting the hurt on some goat-farking terrorist camp via remote control.
          • Explain me a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Bush keeps referring to it, yet there's no link whatsoever!
            • Explain me a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Bush keeps referring to it, yet there's no link whatsoever!

              There may be no direct link, but that`s not the direct point (IMHO). The logic behind it (for me) is as follows:
              1. Terrorism, based on fundamentalist extremism, will always exist in certain people`s hearts
              2. That terrorism is limited to goofballs bombing a volkswagen or `small scale` incidents unless they receive major funding, logistical support, intel, and backing
              3. Certain states, with abolute dictatorial
              • That terrorism is limited to goofballs bombing a volkswagen or `small scale` incidents unless they receive major funding, logistical support, intel, and backing

                I'm sorry.. what?!

                9/11 took a handful of dedicated pissed off people with average intelligence and the a few thousand dollars.

                It doesn't take a genius to realize:
                • Planes go very fast
                • Planes carry a lot of highly flammable fuel; especially those going on long trips
                • Airport security sucks; and one could (and still can) get any sort of weapon a
              • OK I've got a bone to pick with you davejenkins:

                1. If you feel that terrorism will always exist, why are you trying to go to war with it? That's like declaring a war on rivers or gravity or dirt or something.

                2. Agreed

                3. You need not have absolute dictatorial powers (nice rhetoric btw) to fund terrorists. Consider the $27 million of classified expenditures in the Pentagon budget. You have no idea where that money is going, and it's quite likely that some of it is going to fund groups we would never
                • Qrlx,

                  I don`t think slashdot is the most productive place for this kind of debate. I welcome your arguments-- refreshingly clear and well-thought (rare on slashdot, I think we can agree on that).

                  Please come pitch your case on a href="http://www.thought-control.org">http://www.t hought-control.org. Post your article, and we can debate there
          • Everyone prefers not to kill (except the murderous bastards). This is a straw-man position, and politically naive.

            It's not a straw-man position. We kill people all the time because it's easy to do. Do you think that George Bush Jr. would have invaded Iraq if there was going to be a 1:1 casualty rate, or even a 1:5 or 1:10? Of course not -- the whole point of the Iraq war was to distract the nation from the fact that we've lost more jobs than under any President since Hoover and, at the same time, make it

            • I would imagine that there are some geeks who lost loved ones in 9-11 who would, similar to my original point, prefer that it was harder to kill people so that you'd only do it when you really had to.

              The one thing that 9/11 taught us that there are some people who are willing to go to ANY length to kill other people. They took technically trained people (flying a commercial airliner and hitting a building with it isn't at all easy) and had them sacrifice their lives in order to kill people.

              Do you really
        • I feel the same way. War with out extreme human cost on BOTH sides means the side with fewer losses will take it much more lightly...This is EXACTLY what we saw with GB & Iraq. While we count every US casualty on CNN, they gloss over the THOUSANDS of Iraqis we killed in the process. He knew he could get his war because we would have extremely low casualties.

          The other problem I have is justfying this technology. After all, what's really the difference between terrorists flying a plane into a bui

        • I hear you, but you know what, the U.S.A. isn't some country that decided to invade its neighbours, like Germany, Iraq or whoever, it's a superpower that is getting its ass kicked by those who want to live in the "past", and are being dragged kicking and screaming into the information age, where you can't go around hurting people without everyone knowing about it within seconds. It's a big fat period of change right now, and I'm as freaked as anyone about all the shit going down around us all. So if a soupe
          • How, exactly, is this superpower getting its ass kicked? 3000 dead big deal. We've killed that many a dozen times over.

            Really, what is everyone so up in arms about. Some civilians died. It's war. Just because they bombed us a couple times doesn't mean we're losing; it doesn't really mean a whole lot. What is has meant so far is that America is looking fooling trying to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan, deploying our for-real military against guys with AK47s and hand grenades and box cutters. We're compl
        • So make tools that work best for defense instead of offense. That's actually easier in many ways because you don't have to deal with storing enough power (gasoline, electricity, whatever) for the job and you can worry about specializing to known areas rather than having to deal with a wide varity of possible areas.

          Perhaps make an anti-terrorism robot that patrols cities intelligently on it's own with the ability to record and detain suspicious people while calling for human assistance. Given that it's a ma
        • If you look at history, anytime one side was able to kill the other without having to really risk themselves, the shitty side of history results -- genocide, oppression, etc. Just because it's your side that happens to have the better guns, tech, germs or whatever doesn't mean it's a Good Thing.

          Well, now that's strange. How many mass graves have we dug up in Iraq? It seems that genocide and oppression is the hallmark of a dictatorship.

          The point is that Iraq launched a war and lost. They surrendered an
    • Well said, I feel any idea that is observed or comes to mind of military brass has the automatic prefix; Hmmmm what kind of a wepon do we have here, weither it is a robot or a ham sandwich........cover you art or it will be seen.
  • Torrent (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aliencow (653119) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:42PM (#6896877) Homepage Journal
    I am currently downloading the file (it's slowing down every second..) but would anyone be willing to provide a tracker ? I'll make a .torrent and email it/seed it !
  • race vs challenge (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:45PM (#6896899)
    from the darpa site's Q&A : "...And they must do these things quickly- overall speed will be the deciding factor and the time limit is designed to push vehicle speeds far beyond current technologies."

    this makes it seem like the focus is more on speed that on being able to navigate by oneself. if you're making a race, call it a race, dont call it a challenge, a challenge should have prizes for anyone who can do it. i find this very misleading, anyone have any thoughts on this? how about starting a petition to change the name!

    consolevision roxors
    • Not if ... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tessaiga (697968)

      the challenge is high-speed automated navigation.

      As a news.com story pointed out, "Calculations and decisions have to be made rapidly, however, and the room for error is huge. A vehicle moving at 45 miles per hour is covering about 60 feet per second ... If the vehicle's computer can't absorb changes in data quickly enough, it could mean a trip into a gully."

      Solving a problem, and solving the same problem in an efficient and timely matter are two different things. As any student walking out of a final

    • The CMU video claims that it's a challenge because the course won't be revealed until two hours before the actual event. Sounds pretty challenging to me.
    • To a degree I agree with you. It'd be nice if there was some prize for anybody that finished the course. It's probably to late to design a machine and enter this year but if nobody wins and they do it again maybe I'll try to enter. I was thinking of trying to make the most affordable solution that could really compete (even if not win) and try that. They seem to be thinking of offroad pickup trucks with a few brains thrown in. I'd be more interested in robots that had to weigh under 100lbs and be able to do
  • by Pvt_Waldo (459439) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:47PM (#6896911)
    One of the huge applications of autonomous vehicles is the removal of landmines. Systems that can scout out, identify, mark, and even remove mines could save the death and maiming of thousands every year.

    Our poor earth is littered with millions of land mines left over from past conflicts, and from current ones too.

    Don't knock technology like this. It can be used for good too. Even to clean up after the bad.
    • Yeah, but I think you're missing the point .. just because it can be used for good doesn't mean it will be .. they thought nuclear was a good thing too -- and look at the destruction it caused.
    • by Skyshadow (508) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:53PM (#6896949) Homepage
      Or you could have it roll into a network of caves and shoot the people inside without exposing your own guys to risk.

      Or you could send it over to an enemy location and transmit a "bomb me" signal to the smart bombs to hit.

      Or you could have it crawl in and set fire to a compound where a bunch of religious extremists are held up.

      Or you could use it to wait in a ditch for a month until the car of a political leader rolls by and blow it up.

      These aren't all necessarily *bad* things -- it's always been reality that we kill each other, sometimes with good reason. But it *is* another step away from the old days when you'd have to risk your own life to kill another person, which IMO makes it a lot easier to do.

      • You're very right, this can be used for much "bad".

        That's why I'm here pushing the idea of using it for good. Nobody's stopping anyone from developing this kind of technology for useful non-threatening/harming uses.

        It's not a sword, it's not a plowshare, it's just a thing that you can use for different purposes.
    • This has nothing to do with scouting out landmines. These robots have to follow a set path of waypoints. When you scout out landmines there aren't many waypoints cause you don't know where the landmines are. You could set a robot to travel a path in a field looking for landmines along the way but there are probably much better and easier ways to do it.

      Beside's you'd probably want some kind of human interaction, what happens if the vehicle comes across a land mind, doesn't "see" it and blows up? At leas
    • by Pvt_Waldo (459439) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:59PM (#6896981)
      Here are some stats from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines website at http:///www.icbl.org and the Clear Landmines website at http://www.clearlandmines.com...
      1. Over 35,000 amputees in Camboida alone from landmine injuries
      2. An estimated 200 million landmines have been manufactured in the last 25 years.
      3. Each year, 26,000 people are killed or mutilated by landmines of which 8,000 are children.
      4. Roughly 3 people every hour, 71 per day are injured or killed by landmines


      The US Military DOES put effort into this kind of thing for landmine detection. It's not just a "killing" technology. Check out http://www.aro.army.mil/arowash/rt/sbir/00PHIII/00 page3.htm for example. Cool "geek friendly" vehicle which can save lives. There are others too. Go to google and search for sbir landmine detection [google.com]. SBIR grants are a type of grant the US goverment (all branches, not just military) give out every year to small businesses to develop stuff.
      • Of course the linked sites also point out that the US and Russia are the only members of the G8 who haven't stopped producing/using mines. Rather than spend $billions inventing some crazy robot buggy to clear up your mess, how about just not dropping it in the first place? Or is that too simple?
    • by dreadnougat (682974) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @11:19PM (#6897064)
      Or you could use trained monkeys to do the same thing. This accomplishes two things: 1) Saves lives by clearing out dangerous landmine and other unexploded ordinance. 2) Pisses off PETA Well I don't know about you, but I'm off to kill a cute animal to make into a bag.
    • Bullshit. You don't need long distance autonomy to remove landmines. You need simple low cost items that can be maintained and operated by simple folks in the third-world countries. 50 metres remote control distance is enough.
    • One of the huge applications of autonomous vehicles is the removal of landmines.

      As has already been pointed out, that's unnecessarily complex compared to telepresence used to do the same. In fact, I'm suspicious that this can be used by the military for much (general) good at all. Think about the environment that makes this necessary. If it was NASA, it might make sense, but where on the surface of this planet do you need a machine to operate itself rather than a human operating it remotely?

  • by euxneks (516538) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:52PM (#6896947)
    Monster Garage! [origprod.com]
  • Anybody got a mirror or a BitTorrent link for the Red Team video (http://www.redteamracing.org/include/media/movies /red_team.mpeg [redteamracing.org])?
  • by tessaiga (697968) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @10:57PM (#6896971)

    News.com covered the Grand Challenge a while back in one of their articles [com.com]. Gives a more viewer-friendly overview of what it's all about than DARPA's site.

  • by kdb003 (705035) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @11:00PM (#6896988) Homepage Journal
    i will simply program it to set off an emp.
    that should spice things up
  • All I can say... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by evil-osm (203438)
    I checked out Red Teams site and all I can say is "wow".

    That and Mopar never gave me these options [redteamracing.org] when I bought my Jeep! :(
  • by jgaynor (205453) <jonNO@SPAMgaynor.org> on Sunday September 07, 2003 @11:11PM (#6897031) Homepage
    Here [rutgers.edu], Courtesy of Rutgers.
    • Shucks, I was getting it from the original site at a good rate (~30KB/s) and they just erased the file (disconnected, then 404 on retry). Which I think means we made some poor geek's pager go off on a Sunday evening.
  • advertisement (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    does anyone else wonder if the poster has some ties to The red team, because that video had almost nothing to do with the race. It sounded more like a advertisement to get money for there project.
  • Did they mean dessert robot race? My entry will be CowboyNealBot.
  • CMU Mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rufus211 (221883) <(gro.hsikcah) (ta) (todhsals-sufur)> on Sunday September 07, 2003 @11:20PM (#6897069) Homepage
    Wow, this is the second CMU site taken down in the last few days. Well, lets see if we can take down an other! Here's a mirror of the movie and some documents on my CMU account:

    http://andrew.cmu.edu/~pnelson/www.redteamracing.o rg/ [cmu.edu]
  • by Mockingbird (51545) on Sunday September 07, 2003 @11:51PM (#6897209) Homepage
    So I get a call from one of my client's ISPs. Some guy named Charles is really alarmed about the massive amount of traffic my sleepy little robot site is generating all of a sudden.

    Woohoo, my first Slashdotting!

    So naturally the ISP temporarily banished the file. Thanks to everyone who put up mirrors. The file ought to be back where it belongs on 9/10.

    Unrelated to the file, these guys at CMU kick ass. Despite all the DARPA downplaying that they don't exepect anyone to even complete the race in the first year, I have tremendous confidence in the Red Team to overachieve. There's a 'success at any cost' vibe coming out of that place that has to be experienced to be believed.
    • There's a 'success at any cost' vibe coming out of that place that has to be experienced to be believed.

      Yes, in fact, many teams are spending much more than a million bucks to try and win. It's exciting.

  • According to the rules [darpa.mil], the technical papers for the challenge vehicles will be released after the competition.

    Also interesting is the fact that the winner wins 1 million dollars. I wonder what sort of design budgets these teams have.

    My only concern is, is this ESPN2 quality programming or merely cable access?

    N

  • MIRROR (Score:3, Informative)

    by BhAaD (692949) on Monday September 08, 2003 @12:16AM (#6897311) Homepage
    Here is a link: http://sch5.digitalnines.com/red_team.mpeg
  • Mirror hosted by CMU's Field Robotics Center: here [cmu.edu].

    Mirror hosted by Rutgers: here [rutgers.edu]

    Mirror hosted by CMU Computing Services: here [cmu.edu]

    Yes we know that the external Red Team website is hosted on IIS and powered by ASP. We're working on fixing these two bugs. =) Also to our defense, our internal technical web is powered by TWiki on Linux with Apache.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday September 08, 2003 @12:42AM (#6897388) Homepage
    There's heavy hype out of Red Whittaker's group. He wants to build a machine from the ground up, needs $5 million to do it, and doesn't have it. The fancy video is a fund-raising effort. Note that nothing in that video shows work done for the Grand Challenge, other than some pretty design pictures on a screen.

    That red Jeep has nothing to do with the Grand Challenge. That's Navlab 11 [navlab.org], the Robotics Institute's latest test vehicle. the Robotics Institute, headed by Charles Thorpe, took a look at the Grand Challenge and decided to pass. He told me "If we entered, we'd have to win", and since he's mostly Government-funded, he'd need another source of funding, which he didn't have. Whittaker, who heads a related but separate operation, the Field Robotics Center, decided to do it on his own.

    Whittaker issues a constant stream of trival press releases, like Team Equipped with Laptops and Office Equipment [redteamracing.org]. We have considerable respect for the Robotics Institute at CMU, but this is becoming embarassing.

    We take Team Caltech seriously, but not Whittaker's operation.

    We will give a presentation on September 24, in EE380 [stanford.edu] at Stanford, on how we're doing it, and will show our vehicle, which isn't vaporware.

    John Nagle
    Team Overbot [overbot.com]

    • Maybe if you guys can't get around to entering, you can do some kind of BattleBot type competition. Fight it out like in a big football stadium. Be a really cool half-time event :^)
    • The Red Team is not building a machine from ground up. Navlab 11 was used as a proof of concept platform for the Red Team. In so far as I can tell, we were way ahead of the Stanford team during this summer - having accomplished a successful 8.6 miles autonomous traversal at our test site.

      You are welcomed to take not take us seriously, but know this: we're entering to win.
  • Wondering why the horizon was so cheesily photoshopped. Do they not want to reveal the TRUE location. (eerie Twilight Zone music plays in the background.)
  • We were somewhere near Barstow on the edge of the desert, when the robots began to take over... I for one welcome our new robot overlords!
  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday September 08, 2003 @01:48AM (#6897628) Journal
    Design a Robot that can drive alone from Barstow to Las Vegas without dying of boredom.
    • are you kidding? you get to pass thru lovely Baker, which has the largest thermometer in the world. plus, they have this kick ass greek lunch place!

      also, if you have a sports car, it's not so boring, especially coming down the mountains into Vegas. there are many 'CHP safe' areas where you can really just cruise at 140mph for a decent period of time.
  • This scares me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Qrlx (258924) on Monday September 08, 2003 @01:57AM (#6897655) Homepage Journal
    From the display board [darpa.mil], "It shall be a goal of the Armed Forces...that by 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles of the Armed Forces are unmanned." -National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (S. 2549, Sec. 217)

    That is very scary to me. Who decided we want this? I do not want our military, any military sending ROBOT TANKS into battle.

    If anybody can provide any history or background on where this "mission statement" is about, I'd love to know. The development of autonomous, mobile killing machines is extremely distrubing. I also wonder if some of the participants in this challenge are so focused on the million dollars that they don't quite realize what they are building.

    I'm reminded of the movie Real Genius, where the huge laser they spend all semester working on turns out to be some black ops superweapon.

    Just imagine what an autonomous tank with human targeting capability could do against even a lightly armed population. For example: "You have fifteen seconds to comply."

    There is, somehow, a line between war and senseless slaughter. I think unmanned ground combat vehicles cross that line. They need to change the name back to Department of War if they're going to be building stuff like this.
    And as cool and engaging as this challenge is, I can't support it.
    • The development of autonomous, mobile killing machines is extremely distrubing.

      They're not going to be autonomous, they're going to be remote-controlled. Jets will probably get there first, though, humans are too fragile to handle modern jet design.

      The problem will be, of course, that a C&C center in central Florida will be a military target when there's a war going on in the middle east. Maybe that's not such a problem - at least it brings reality home.

      I suspect they'll need a constellation of LE
  • Damn, it's fast (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EnglishTim (9662) on Monday September 08, 2003 @06:13AM (#6898222)
    Reading the DARPA site, the route will be up to 300 miles long, and has to be completed in under 10 hours - that's an average speed of 30mph, cross-country.

    No wonder they don't expect any contestants to finish on the first race - I think you're going to have to have a fair amount of luck just to not break the vehicle at any point.

    Nevertheless, I can't wait to see it...
    • Whenever this subject comes up I like to gently remind the readership that the desert is not a barren wasteland, but a sparse, fragile ecosystem, where a plant can take a hundred years to get established. I always get moderated as a Troll.

      Well, here I go again:

      that's an average speed of 30mph, cross-country

      OK, so there's no chance of steering around the sensitive plant life.

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