The horrendous human cost of waging war has led to some innovative thinking in military circles. The goal is to conduct battle without putting humans in harm’s way. Part of the solution will be the deployment of autonomous vehicles. Congress has mandated that one-third of all military ground vehicles must be autonomous by 2015.
To spur the development of these vehicles, the Department of Defense (DoD) created the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The agency’s mission is to “leverage ingenuity and research to develop transformational technologies that give our armed forces a decisive edge.”
Manufacturers have been encouraged to enter their autonomous vehicles in DARPA’s Grand Challenge. Participants must pass a number of qualifying rounds on their way to the Challenge. Next up is the National Qualifying Event, to be held in the infield of the California Speedway in Fontana on September 27 through October 6, 2005.
The final Challenge is a 150-mile race in the desert scheduled for October 8, 2005 near Las Vegas, Nevada. The actual course will not be revealed until two hours before the start of the event. Vehicles will have to complete the race in no more than 10 hours and must navigate the course and avoid obstacles fully autonomously, using only their own sensors, computers and cameras. No remote control. No human override. No intervention.
Oshkosh Truck’s Team TerraMax has built a vehicle based on the company’s Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) defense truck platform. Designed for the U.S. Marine Corps, the MTVR is powered by a 425-horsepower Caterpillar C12 engine, has all-wheel drive, and is burly enough to meet the specifications of a 70 percent off-road mission profile.
Team TerraMax chose Huber Mounts’ Type 300 Model D mounts to hold the cameras that will help guide their truck. The mounts are adjustable in three axes, providing the flexibility necessary for the project. But the Type 300 Model D is also rugged, as rugged as the truck itself. Made of stainless steel and high strength aluminum alloy, these mounts can withstand the pounding of off-road competition. Their black anodized finish is unfazed by the hot, gritty operating environment. The dovetail plate and patented DUPLEX-VEE-LOCK work together to keep cameras and other equipment held securely in place. And the Type 300 Model D’s compact footprint affords a wide range of mounting options.
As of February 15, 2005 there were Grand Challenge entries from 195 teams. From those entries, 118 teams were selected by DARPA for site visits. By late August, the list had been winnowed down to just 43 competitors, and Team TerraMax had made the cut.
We’ll post updates on our site as Team TerraMax moves through the competition. You can also get information from the Oshkosh TerraMax Web site (www.terramax.com) and the DARPA Grand Challenge Web site (www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.html).
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