DARPA Urban Challenge - KITT, Put Up Or Shut Up

DARPA has announced that its third Grand Challenge Competition will take place this fall. On November 3rd, autonomous ground vehicles will take to a mocked-up urban area to negotiate a 60-mile course.

Vehicles must complete the course in fewer than six hours. There is real money on the line: first prize is $2,000,000.

This is no ramble through the lonesome desert, either. Vehicles must autonomously obey traffic laws, they must be able to merge into moving traffic, make it through intersections and (obviously) avoid killing anyone.

Science fiction fans (as well as car buffs) will of course remember KITT, the smart and somewhat finicky black Pontiac Trans Am from the television series Knight Rider. KITT is shown below with durable star David Hasselhoff (as Michael Knight), who is better known to younger readers for his cameo on the Spongebob Squarepants movie. KITT stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand.


(KITT and his friend Michael)

In the series, KITT is able to drive in a completely autonomous mode regardless of setting, urban or country. KITT's driving was excellent; KITT sometimes chafed at Michaels inexpert and frankly dangerous driving style. His front-mounted scan bar (which made a really cool "whooshing" sound as the lights went back and forth) enabled KITT to see what was in front of the car.

If any of the DARPA organizers are Knight Rider fans, the next thing they will ask for is the special molecular bonded shell coating, which effectively rendered KITT invulnerable to bullets and most explosions.

KITT fans might want to see how they could pimp their own ride using a mac mini to provide voice control and other features. Sadly, by the time molecular bonded coatings come out, the phrase "pimp" your ride will not only be even older than it is now, but unrecognizable.

Read more at the DARPA Third Grand Challenge announcement

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