NATICK, MA September 12, 2007
Cognex VISION Helps Vehicle “See” the Road in 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge
NATICK, MA, September 12, 2007--Cognex Corporation (NASDAQ: CGNX) announced today that its SafeTRAC lane departure warning system will be used as part of the autonomous vehicle guidance system by Team Mojavaton, one of the 36 teams recently selected to advance to the semifinal round of the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. The DARPA Urban Challenge is a race for “driverless” vehicles scheduled to take place on November 3, 2007 at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, California.
The 2007 competition is the third autonomous vehicle race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is the main R& D organization for the U.S. Department of Defense. The first two DARPA Challenge events involved a course of over 100 miles through the desert in Nevada and Southern California.
The 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge will require vehicles to maneuver in a mock city environment, executing simulated military supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, crossing busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles. The team that successfully completes the course in the fastest time will win a $2 million prize.
Team Mojavaton, based in Grand Junction, Colorado, is comprised of automation experts who work professionally as machine designers, electronic controls engineers, and machine vision integrators. The group originally came together in 2004 to develop a vehicle for the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, and was also one of the finalists selected to compete in that year’s race.
For 2007, the team has made significant enhancements to their vehicle...a Nissan Xterra dubbed “White Knight”...in order to equip it for the challenge of urban driving. The Cognex SafeTRAC system is one of the enhancements that, along with the existing system of sensors, CCD cameras, stereo cameras, radar, and laser range finders and GPS, will guide White Knight along its course.
“The Cognex SafeTRAC system plays a critical role in our car's navigation strategy,” said Mojavaton team leader Jim Crittenden. “DARPA has intentionally designed the course so that cars cannot compete merely by following GPS waypoints. Each vehicle will be required to "see" the road ahead and to use this information in determining where to drive. SafeTRAC employs a clever and robust algorithm that computes the car's position in its lane based on road lines. This information is transferred to the car's computer navigation system 20 times per second and, along with data from the GPS receiver, enables the car to make a reasoned decision about the proper path to follow.”
Cognex SafeTRAC is used commercially by trucking fleets as a safety feature to alert drivers when they have unintentionally drifted out of their lanes or off the road. The system scans the road ahead and sounds an alarm to call attention to erratic driving and weaving due to drowsiness or distraction.
“Cognex is very proud to be associated with Team Mojavaton for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge,” said Pascal Dorster, Director of Cognex’s In-Vehicle Vision Sensors business. “The team’s background as automation designers has clearly paid off in the seamless integration of the many different sensing and control devices needed for such a complex project.’”
Mr. Dorster continued, “Autonomous vehicles may seem like science fiction, but many of the technologies used in the DARPA challenge are already showing up in consumer vehicles. These teams are proving just how advanced and flexible these products already are, and shows their potential for improving everyday driving performance and safety.”
Team Mojavaton’s vehicle also uses two Cognex DVT color vision sensors to detect unpaved roads where there are no painted lane markings.
The thirty six teams recently selected by DARPA will compete in a final qualifying event on October 26 – October 31, 2007 at the George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. During that competition, officials from DARPA will select the final field of 20 vehicles that will compete in the Urban Challenge competition on November 3, 2007. DARPA is offering $2M for the fastest qualifying vehicle, and $1M and $500,000 for second and third place.
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