MIT — long known for winning all sorts of competitions involving modern technology — has entered into another heated contest which will test its mettle against a wide-variety of opponents… and that contest is the DARPA Urban Challenge. DARPA, who we know and love for its fantastic flights of scientific fancy (see the shoot-through shield and laser-guided bullets) has posed a challenge to contestants to create an autonomous auto (AKA a self-controlled vehicle) which can traverse an urban landscape (such as city streets) all by its lonesome. To create such a vehicle, a team at MIT has taken a typical Land Rover, outfitted it with 40 CPU “cores”, high-end GPS receivers, inertial sensors, laser scanners called LIDAR (light detection and ranging), highly sensitive odometers, and a slew of video cameras. The team hopes to pool all of these disparate sensing technologies into a cohesive whole which will imbue their vehicle the preternatural ability to operate on its own in an urban setting. These are truly exciting times to be a car.
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