TI Powers Team DAD's Unmanned Toyota Tundra Truck in DARPA Grand Challenge

10/10/2005 - Team Digital Auto Drive (DAD) announced its unmanned Toyota Tundra truck’s successful qualification for the 2005 Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge on October 8 in Primm, Nevada. Only 20 of 43 teams that entered DARPA’s National Qualification Event (NQE), which concluded this week at the California Speedway, earned a position to participate in the Grand Challenge. Qualified teams are required to send a fully autonomous land vehicle approximately 150 miles across the Mojave Desert, in an effort to help the Department of Defense (DoD) discover new technologies that will enable unmanned military vehicles to be added to U.S. armed forces’ fleets. For more information on Team DAD, see www.ti.com/darpachallenge.

Team DAD, a California-based research organization, has differentiated its vehicle from other Grand Challenge participants by using Texas Instruments (TI) digital signal processing (DSP) technology along with proprietary software to drive itself with no human intervention. Unlike many entries, Team DAD uses a fully roadworthy Toyota Tundra truck that differs little in look and functionality from trucks that are available to the public.

“Our goal for the Grand Challenge is to prove the real-world feasibility of autonomous vehicles’. There is no outstanding technical reason why unmanned vehicles can’t be on the road today,” said Bruce Hall, president of Team DAD. “We believe Team DAD has the answer for legitimate autonomous vehicles in a system that is ready for deployment right now – the possibilities are endless.”

While the military market is the immediate target for unmanned vehicle technology like that found in Team DAD’s truck, the consumer automotive market will also benefit. It is expected that some applications used in Grand Challenge vehicles – such as obstacle detection – may even impact the collision avoidance systems technologies in vehicles currently being developed by top automotive manufacturers.

“When you consider developments in current in-car systems that integrate telecommunication and driving assist functions, cars on the road today are already far more intelligent than they were just a few years ago,” said Mark Amstrock, National Truck and SUV marketing manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. “We at Toyota support this pursuit and we are happy to donate our trucks to help Team DAD bring intelligent, autonomous vehicle technology to market.”

Under DAD’s Hood
Team DAD’s innovative approach to the 2005 Grand Challenge is a proprietary LADAR camera system that aims lasers out at the surrounding environment to build an incredibly detailed, 3-D terrain map. The entire camera and navigation system is enabled by ten TI TMS320C6416 DSPs and two of TI’s DSP-based TMS320C2000TM digital signal controllers. Because DSPs have been used for decades to control mission-critical systems for commercial and government applications, their reliability is proven.

Team DAD’s navigation system can assess road conditions and potential obstacles to more than 500 feet in front of the vehicle, and do so more than 60 times per second. This speed and processing power means the truck can navigate while traveling at more than 100 miles per hour – a significant competitive advantage over vehicles using less sophisticated technologies. In addition, Team DAD’s camera system inherently overcomes challenges like rain, darkness, fog and terrain imperfections that plague the type of traditional vision systems many Grand Challenge competitors will use.

Unlike many other Grand Challenge competitors, Team DAD’s truck is a virtually unobtrusive solution that can be retrofitted on almost any vehicle. This real-world applicability of a team’s design is a key consideration for the Grand Challenge.

“Twenty years ago, the big thinkers and dreamers in the technology world were working on projects thought to be completely outrageous, such as digital T.V., digital cell phones and digital cameras,” said TI principal fellow, Gene Frantz. “Today, these ‘far-out’ ideas have become commonplace devices with huge markets. Today’s ‘far-out’ experiment? Cars that can drive themselves, and they are not as far off as most people think. TI is proud to contribute our enabling DSP technology to Team DAD’s forward-thinking project.”

Team DAD competed in the first DARPA Grand Challenge on March 13, 2004, having traveled the third farthest of all the competitors though none was able to complete the race. This year, the team that completes the Grand Challenge in the least amount of time will be awarded a $2 million prize. DARPA will meet with promising teams to assess potential possibilities for securing a future defense contract. For more information on the DARPA Grand Challenge, see www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.html.

About Digital Auto Drive (DAD)
Digital Auto Drive (DAD) is a research and development organization focused on commercializing vision-recognition based on 3D imaging and navigational technologies. DAD's first goal is to win the DARPA Grand Challenge, proving DAD technology in a real-world application.

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