Hi Bob, you might be able to go back about a year and a half on this
news group and pick up lots of posts on it.
Basically, DARPA expected a few dozen teams. They got around 400. So
they made an arbitrary announcement they were sending out inspectors,
and they wanted to see all the contestants plans and prototypes, and
they'd decide who was worthy and who was culled. The culled were not
actually allowed to compete, even though they were still just part way
into the design stage and months before the contest.
I've heard, many of those inspectors now have been hired in better
paying jobs in the industrial military complex, by the way. But this is
hearsay, and I have no first hand knowledge of such practices. However,
this isn't Denmark, but I smell something familiar.
Randy M. Dumse
Caution: Objects in mirror are more confused than they appear.
I didn't see that, and I headed one of the losing teams.
This year, you had to submit a video. Those who looked like
they had a clue in the video had a site visit. At the site visit,
you had to run a very simple obstacle course. That eliminated
those who didn't have anything working. Then came the NQE,
and obstacle courses. Everybody who had a clean run at the
NQE went to Primm.
What's the problem?
On Sun, Oct 16, 2005 at 11:43:38AM -0500, Randy M. Dumse wrote:
In the post I responded to you complained about what was sacrificed to
put on the DGC - that the money and resources should have been devoted
to other areas.
Hate to break it to you, but people are spending money right now this
very instant on things that you probably don't agree with, and that
money could be spent on your pet projects. It's happening all the
time, at far greater tax payer expense than this little DGC project.
The government offers prize money all the time - for turning in
criminals because it's for the greater good. One can argue that
developing robot technology is for the greater good. Would you
protest if the government offered a prize for a cure for cancer?
You didn't mention this in the post I responded to. Your arguments
were economic based.
I don't know about civic duty, but I certainly would not knowingly
participate in any event where anyone was excluded based on race,
religion, etc. That would just be the proper thing to do.
But your phrasing the hypothetical that way implies that DARPA did
that. Being an actual participant in the event, I will tell you that
from my experience and observations, DARPA bent over backwards to
accomodate all teams. You've already said that your hypothetical is
hearsay. Why don't you have the person(s) affected come forward and
file a lawsuit against DARPA for discrimination - if there is a case
it should be heard. Wouldn't that be your civic duty to bring this
forward so that those who did it can be held responsible and not
continue to do this to people?
Regarding the process of who participated, and who didn't, it went
like this. First you had to do the paperwork to file your intentions
to participate - 195 teams did that. Then you had to submit a video
that showed specific features of your vehicle that DARPA asked to see
- if you couldn't do that, you didn't get a site visit. If you did,
you got a site visit - 118 teams did that. DARPA actually sent out
representatives to 118 teams! Ours was very short and to the point -
all teams had run a 200 meter course, with at least 2 30+ degree turns
and avoid two obstacles (30 gallon trach cans). You got three chances
to run it. We did it all three times, we cleared all gates perfectly
and cleared 5 out of the 6 obstacles, each in under a minute. Based
on site visit performance, DARPA selected 40 teams.
Some teams were on the edge and DARPA even gave them a second chance -
a second site visit. Of those, 3 teams were added so there you have
Those 43 teams showed up at the NQE. Before you were ever even
allowed on the NQE course, you had to pass a "static" inspection -
vehicles must conform to DARPA specs with regard to caution light,
audible alarm, brake lights, etc, etc. Then you had to pass a
"dynamic" test - a simple 200 ft straight line run using a couple
waypoints - the DARPA operator shuts down your vehicle mid-way and
verifies your e-stops.
Some teams at the NQE did extremely well - Stanford, CMU, Cornell, VA
Tech, etc, etc. Other teams did not even get through the first gate.
At least one team was several days into the event before they could
even pass their initial "dynamic" test.
DARPA gave the teams that were struggling _every_ opportunity to run
the course, even to the point of creating an alternate course for
those teams on the next to the last day so that they could at least
We ran the course 5 times. On our first 2 runs we had PC power supply
going bad which caused our main sensor computer to go down both runs.
It took a while to figure out because the power supply worked
intermittantly and we could never seem to catch it while it was acting
up. But once we discovered that problem, we sent someone out to a
local CompUSA to get a replacement power supply and then we ran the
course 3 more times with one of those a near perfect run clearing 49
out of 50 gates and avoiding 5 out of 5 ostacles. On our other runs
we cleared in the high 40's out of 50 gates and avoided 4 out of 5
obstacles. Those three runs were plenty good to get us into the top
So from what I saw, as a member of a team who was there from the
beginning to the end, I didn't see the things you spoke of above. The
process was elimination by competition. The accusations you've made
are very serious and you really should be very sure of your facts
before accusing someone or an organization of such a thing. Like I
mentioned above, if you have the facts, I think it is _your_ civic
duty to come forward and expose them. But USENET is probably not the
optimal place for that.
On Sun, Oct 16, 2005 at 06:15:31PM -0500, Randy M. Dumse wrote:
I don't recall accusing anyone of anything, not in this thread anyway.
Is that the worst you can find? Seriously, an article in the esteemed
"The Register" from 2 years ago? Boy, that really does rip into DARPA
Instead of some deep and intricate covered-up plot by DARPA to
confound and confuse potential participants with their evil plan to
"exclude them from the event", I find it much more likely that DARPA
under estimated the number of teams wanting to participate and had to
trim the field to what they thought they could logistically handle and
they chose what they thought were the most likely candidates to
actually have vehicles ready for the event. Never attribute to malice
what can be adequately explained by incompetance ... or something like
I do remember some of the complaints about the (not unexpected) rule
change that limited the number of entrants for DGC version 1. But in
trimming down the field of entrants, DARPA did offer a site visit even
back then to see what teams had before doing so - that was what, 5
months before the event? If you didn't have working technology to
demonstrate by then, a mere few months before the event, you had next
to no chance of being ready by the time of the event anyway. So if
you were cut because you had nothing to show at the offered site
visit, what's the complaint? And you're saying it was discrimination?
I think your argument is on life support.
Lots of teams that participated in DGC 1 or wanted to participate but
were not selected were back for DGC 2. So everyone got their chance
this time around, with plenty of forewarning, and folks don't have
much to complain about if they were even remotely serious about
competing in the first place. DARPA planned better and the selection
process was better for DGC version 2.
So I don't think there is an evil conspiracy here, in DGC version 1
nor in version 2.
Yes, Brian. That's the worst. Scoffing at it doesn't make it untrue.
Vilifying the source reporting it there doesn't mean there weren't
others. Violation of fair play and "the American way" means more to some
than others. Cutting off people told they had (what was it?) 18 months
when they were less than 18 months into a preparation, eliminating them
by capricious, arbitrary standards not related to competition, even
requiring the submission of white papers and submit to a "search" of
their facilities as a condition to entry, based on having listened to
many Supreme Court rulings to the best of my understanding of
Constitutional law were illegal. Who knows what breakthroughs might have
happened in the final days before performance? Was anything modified on
your entry in the last five months? Eliminating anyone before the
contest, from the competition, which offered public funds for
demonstrating performance of a task at the contest, was an act of
discrimination. I'm sorry that is a hard concept. But ridiculing it does
not change its veracity.
Now, since I can't stand your condescending attitude, about something I
take seriously, without feeling the strong need to reply in kind, I
think instead I'll stop discussing this with you, with my closing
comment: People often get the government they deserve, and that should
scare the devil out of most of us.
Randy M. Dumse
Caution: Objects in mirror are more confused than they appear.
On Sun, Oct 16, 2005 at 11:57:44PM -0500, Randy M. Dumse wrote:
My response was not intended to be condescending. I believe that you
believe what you believe and I respect your right to believe that.
That doesn't mean I agree with it. I'm just offering a different
explanation of the data available.
Villify me if you must, but I just don't see any foul play here. That
doesn't mean there aren't other instances of aggregious misconduct.
But I don't see it here. One should choose one's battles carefully,
otherwise you risk becoming the boy who cried wolf.
On Sun, Oct 16, 2005 at 07:32:50PM -0700, dan michaels wrote:
DARPA presents the course to teams in RDDF form - an ASCII text file
containing lat/lon of each waypoint, segment width defining the
boundary between two waypoints, and a suggested speed for the segment
(not to be exceeded).
The first RDDF was 2.2 miles and consisted of passing between several
gates to a "high speed" section which whose speed was 40 MPH. That
fed into a hay bail funnel. While the hay bails were not considered
obstacles, they gave most of the teams their problems, oddly enough.
The hay bail funnel led into a long tunnel lined with metal to block
GPS signals. After the tunnel, the course wound near a stacked pile
of tires and to the first official obstacle which was a parked
"rental" car as the announcer described it. Vehicles had to avoid the
card and move on to the "rough terrain" section which was composed of
4x4 and 2x4 posts and car tires lying flat on the ground with hay
bails lining the sides.
After that, vehicles had to navigate a simulated "mountain pass" where
the course hugged up tight agains a long curved row of k-rail
barriers. Following that was a few twisty turns and then into the
home stretch which had two more "rental" cars on it that needed to be
avoided. The last section of the course had some rumble strips (speed
bumps) immediately followed by a tank trap that also needed to be
The official obstacles were the rental cars and the tank trap - 4 for
RDDF 1, though the hay bails, tunnel, k-rails were hit a lot but did
not count as obstacles.
On RDDF 2, which I beleive was 2.7 miles and the first one we
successfully navigated, I think that one included a new "rental" car
and re-arranged the order of some of the sections. And instead of the
high speed section which was on pavement, it included a parallel
section but on grass instead of pavement and the speed was lower and
much rougher. That RDDF had 5 obstacles instead of 4.
Similarly with RDDF 3 - I can't remember the specifics - all the
courses were similar, just hooked up the sections in different orders
and the inclusion of the van as a 5th obstacle. We actually hit the
van, twice I think. First time we barely scraped by it - we actually
avoided it OK, but turned back into the centerline too early and
scraped down the left side of our truck. The second time we hit, we
were steering around it, but didn't steer quite hard enough. Had we
been 4 inches to the right, we would have missed it. As it was, we
tagged it not too hard, our bumper actuated, detected the impact,
we shifted to reverse, backed up a few meters and reoriented, then
steered properly around the van. We dinged up the front of the
Suburban slightly - nothing the grinder couldn't fix. We finished out
that run clearing 4 out of 5 obstacles and a good score.
The van was in a difficult position for us - the course had you coming
around a turn and there the van was before you got straightened back
out and made the geometry a little weird, at least for us and our
The hardest obstacle I thought was the tank trap. Our LIDAR
intersected it at the criss-cross level and made the obstacle appear
smaller than it really is, thus we tend to understeer when avoiding
Here you can see some low quality video of one of our runs here (taken
with a digital still camera with MPG capability):
This has us entering the hay bail funnel before the tunnel, going
through the tunnel, around the first parked rental car, on to the
rough terrain section, down the long striaght and turning toward the
van and clearing it this run (too far away to see clearly, though),
then back around and finally to the final stretch where we clear the
remaining obstacles and cross the finish. The mountain pass section
is not shown because you couldn't see it very well from where the
video was shot.
Our main obstacle sensor is a SICK LMS-291 LIDAR mounted at front
bumper level. It works very well, has a range of about 40 meters. I
wrote the obstacle avoidance code - it works pretty well most of the
time, but is not perfect. The LIDAR can be dazzled by bright sunlight
resulting in blind spots, but other than that, it is a fantastic
We were highly constrained by our budget so we really couldn't afford
more LIDARs which are about $6000 each. SICK sold them to GC teams
for $3000 each so at least we did not have to pay full price. We do
have a second one mounted on top to sense the terrain profile in front
of the truck, but we had some problems with it during the NQE and it
was not running during these runs, so the front LIDAR was the only
obstacle sensor we had. Had we had more budget, we probably would
have had several mounted on top each at a slightly different angle to
get a better terrain and obstacle picture. We saw many teams that
used that configuration.
Hey Brian. Thanks for all the info regarding the obstacles. Looks like
your vehicles needed to be working well just to get through that. Good
job, for going 26 miles too. Oops, my little sumo just ran into the
wall - blind as a bat :O).
BTW, what do you think might work for a moose detector? Especially, for
a moving moose.
On Mon, Oct 17, 2005 at 08:33:21PM -0700, dan michaels wrote:
That's a tough one. I thought you were joking when you first posted
that, but the more I think about it, I think it would be a great idea.
I was driving home at that twilight time in the evening the other day
when deer are rustling about and was intensely alert, not that my
reaction time still would have been fast enough to avoid one since
they come out of nowhere like a bullet. What a great idea to have a
sensor to give you some forewarning.
What about an infrared camera - look for its body heat which should be
substantial. CMUCam/AVRcam for IR. One should be able to
differentiate a moose or other animal (deer, cow, person) from other
heat sources like oncoming cars due to temp difference between animals
and a car engine. Also, size of the animal could be estimated as well
- do you care about squirrels? If the IR cameras see warm bodies
nearby, sound the alert.
I had one miss my truck by inches, almost twilight, into the setting sun,
Probably would have totaled the van, as I was doing 70 or so. I'd
pay serious money and I think others would as well.
Don't care at all about anything house cat sized on down.
How do you tell a car far away from a deer/cow up close?
Do you have range as well? or triangulate from two or more
Maybe combine IR with motion and/or visual?
On Tue, Oct 18, 2005 at 01:01:12AM -0400, Pat Farrell wrote:
I was going on the idea that the IR sensor can actually sense
temperature. A car engine should be hotter than an animal's body temp
and it can thus be filtered out. Only look for things in the temp
range of a large animal.
I'm envisioning one of those infrared cameras that detect body heat.
Used by law enforcement to find people at night. Or do those just
exist in Hollywood?
A signal image wouldn't provide depth, I think you'd need stereo for
that. Given the infrared image(s), standard video processing
techniques should work to do the rest - find the moose, sound the
They exist, more or less; firefighters use similar equipment to evaluate
buildings for residual heat sources. Unfortunately, they tend to be
expensive. The low energies involved in thermal radiation require high
sensitivity for measurement, and the receiving element must be shielded
from background radiation (often by actively cooling the camera)
Actually, I was being semi-serious. As noted in the original post,
there are 100s of 1000s of deer collisions every year, so just the cost
of the auto repairs, and possible personal injuries, can be high. And I
read that in Maine, approx 1 moose is hit every day. How many people
even live in Maine? 6, maybe ;-). A 1500# moose will put a dent in the
Down southwest of Denver, they opened up a new ring corridor 10 years
or so ago, and there were deer collisions every single day, until they
put up about 15 miles of tall fences the deer couldn't jump over on
both sides of the road.
The moose/deer sensor would have to:
(a) detect the animal, and maybe note its size
(b) track if it's moving
(c) compute its speed
(d) predict whether it will intercept the path of vehicle
A good engineering problem.
- dan michaels
Listening to an interview of Montmerlo (spelling?), the team leader of
Stanford team, he said it was quite amusing to see Stanley trying to swerve
when a bird crossed flew a couple meters in front of Stanley bumper.
Nothing to do with robotics, but two days ago at WalMart I saw this "Deer
It is a set of two little devices you install on your front bumper and they
are "wind activated". From what I saw it is nothing more than a whistle set
to a certain frequency that must bother that kind of animal. How effective
it is I really don't know.
So just what were some of the approaches, and what accounts for the
big improvement ? Is there real ooh-la-la AI involved here ? Or
just sophisticated ad hoc adaptations ?
Congratulations to you and everyone involved, BTW. I can hardly
imagine how one would go about doing this, which is why I'm
I read an account of one team which qualified ( Syracuse ? ) and
they just talked about computers catching fire and vehicle problems.
Lew Mammel, Jr.
Did you see the Blue Team's self-balancing motorcycle? The
three-unit snake-like articulated vehicle? There were a few
unusual entries that worked.
There was a straightforward qualification process. Your vehicle
had to actually work. First, you sent in a video of your
vehicle working. Everybody who had some indication of having
something working got a site visit.
At the site visit, two DARPA inspectors watched your vehicle
run through a very simple course they'd specified. You had to
be able to avoid two trash cans. That brought it down to 43
entries for the National Qualification Event.
At the NQE, at the California Motor Speedway, each team
got five tries at a 2-mile obstacle course. Everybody who
had one clean run went to Primm for the main event. That
brought it down to 23 teams.
Of those 23 teams, five finished the 132 miles.
Of those five teams, Stanford had the best time.
I'm not complaining, and I was the team leader of one of
the losing teams. The elimination process was tough, but
While one can argue about the funding of the CMU and
Mitre teams, the Stanford team was funded by Volkswagen
and by Mohr Davidson Ventures. Not tax money.
It sure beats dealing with NASA, which sucks robotics researchers
into decade-long projects that go nowhere.
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