“Boss”, a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV

Vehicles which can drive by themselves gathered for the 2007 DARPA Challenge. Eighty-nine teams took to the field but the team from Carnegie Mellon University took home the bacon after the team’s entry upstaged all entries. The Tartan Racing Team of the aforementioned university went into the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, California as one of the hopefuls and went home as the victors.

The DARPA Urban Challenge is organized and sponsored by the United States Military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA. Vehicles entered into the competition should have the ability to navigate busy city streets without any interference or control from humans. They should rely on sensors and software used by different teams.

In the finals, eleven teams met for the final battle and one of them is the eventual winner which is called the “Boss” – a Chevy Tahoe. The vehicles are asked to park, and merge into moving traffic. They should be able to make decisions based on the reading of their sensors. The vehicles navigated through a 60-mile urban course and waiting at the finish line is one year worth of bragging rights and a $2 million-filled purse.

The key to the Boss’ victory is the CarSim, a vehicle dynamics simulation software developed by Mechanical Simulation and used by Tartan Racing Team of Carnegie. Said software uses sensors to predict the behavior of vehicles regarding various road conditions. With that in place, the vehicle can safely navigate urban streets, stop on red lights, merge into traffic, and pass intersections safely. These are attributes that the US military is looking for in a vehicle which can be used on theaters across the world especially on urban grounds.

“We’re honored to be able to participate in the type of leading-edge technology demonstrated in the DARPA Challenge,” said Thomas D. Gillespie, Ph.D., the director of product planning and co-founder of Mechanical Simulation based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The work being done by Carnegie Mellon – and all these teams – is reflected in the advancements in active safety systems within the automotive industry and in countless other programs in the future,” he added further.

Terence Rhoades, president of Mechanical Simulation, had this to add: “We have participated in the DARPA Challenge with Carnegie Mellon for the past three years. The team has brought an impressive level of skill and creativity to this competition, and it’s gratifying to see them achieve the highest honors. The competitions challenge us as much as they do the teams to produce vehicles that will respond to road hazards.”