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The European Grand Challenge 61

An anonymous reader writes "A European version of the DARPA Grand Challenge is being held in Germany next month. Instead of a race through the desert, the EU challenge is split into three events. Urban, non-urban, and landmine detection will be the 'courses', with multiple winners in each event. Interestingly Sebastian Thrun, winner of last year's Challenge, has been forbidden from taking part despite being a European citizen." From the article: "The trials will take place in and around Hammelburg, a mockup of a town used by the German military for training exercises. In the non-urban course the robots will have to contend with a one-kilometer route containing ditches, barbed wire fences, cattle guards, fires, narrow underpasses, and inclines of up to 40 degrees. The urban and landmine 500-meter trials will require the robots to negotiate doorways, stairs, partially collapsed buildings, and poor visibility from smoke or partial lighting. Along the way, they will also have to search for designated objects and report their findings back to base."
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The European Grand Challenge

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  • Why keep Sebastian Thrun out? He won the DARPA contest, and even used Volkswagen to do it. Chauvinist ankle biters.
  • I guess staying up late getting taxes done and getting ready for Easter is more important than discussing this article.
    • I tried to post earlier, but I got a message about slashdot.org's database server being down for maintenance. At the time, the top three stories on the main page had zero comments, so I guess it was down for a while.
  • "semi-autonomous and even remotely operated vehicles can also be entered"

    Obviously is still likely to generate some useful stuff, but for me this does take some of the coolness out of it.
  • Is it just me, or does this smell even more of munitions R&D for the military-industrial complex than DARPA's challenge?
    • No, it smacks of european "me-too"ism. Which frankly is unbecoming to the continent which brought us modern science.

      BTW, what did you think the "D" in "DARPA" stood for anyway?
  • my entry (Score:2, Insightful)

    This seemed that it might be more difficult and more useful than the DARPA challenge, until I read that the contest allowed semi-autonomous and even remote-controlled vehicles.

    In light of this, I've begun working on my European citizenship so that I can enter a remote control car strapped to a camera.

    • enter a remote control car strapped to a camera.
      I'm not quite sure it'd work...I'd rather have instead a camera strapped to a remote control car... unless you can get a camera with wheels!
  • DARPA was better (Score:3, Informative)

    by romka1 ( 891990 ) on Saturday April 15, 2006 @11:37PM (#15136601) Homepage
    The Official site [elrob2006.org]

    Participants [www.fgan.de] are not as interesting as DARPA most of them are small robots not full sized cars...

    Although I would like to watch how those robots will pass the mine field
  • A friend of mine, an officer who is currently serving in the US army in Iraq, came with me to the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. His response to the whole event was "Hell, I don't need robots that can go 150 miles. I need robots that can go 100 yards." What he meant was that he wanted a robot capable of going a short distance that could detect/disable IUDs and mines. That's a pretty risky endeavour for a person to do.
    • by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @03:08AM (#15137184)
      Those are being developed. iRobot PackBot, Foster Miller Talon, Remotec Mini Andros. They are controlled by human operators, have a coulple cameras and are being testing with explosive detection devices. The robots I mentioned are more or less designed to disable the IED after they are found, but companies are making add-ons that aid in detecting IEDs in the field.
    • That wasn't the point of the Grand Challenge, though. The GC was designed to help develop autonomous vehicles for things like long-distance supply missions. Your friend's complaint is like complaining that a digital SLR camera can't record movies even though it's good at what it was designed for -- still image capture. It can't capture movies because its design makes that physically impossible since it wasn't meant for movie capture. Similarly, the GC robots weren't designed for clearing minefields and no o
      • Perhaps the military is asking for video cameras and DARPA is giving them digital SLRs(I don't think so, but)?

        It seems to me that the officer was probably capable of understanding the purpose of the grand challenge and was lamenting the expenditure of the resources on something so tangentially related to his problems; he wants a mine-hunter grand challenge, not a neato-autodrive grand challenge...
    • could detect/disable IUDs and mines

      I would love to see a robot which can detect both IUDs and mines. Truely versatile.

    • detect/disable IUDs

      IUD's? Is the army trying to get their enemy pregnant?

      For the comically impaired...
          IUD - intra-uteran device
          IED - improvised explosive device

    • Tell your friend a vehicle that can be used for mine detection is currently made. It is light in weight and can be Radio or GPS controlled www.gpscontrolledvehicle.com
    • There's already a DARPA competition for small-scale vision-based navigation through cluttered terrain, though for more general purposes than landmine detection. It's called LAGR [darpa.mil]. The NYU team has a nice page [nyu.edu] on their system with pics and videos (I'm a member).

      The Grand Challenge, I thought, was designed with a detrimentally macho mindset, with a needlessly high ratio of financial risk to scientific output. It sent many expensive cars through long stretches of very uniform-looking but occasionally high-ris

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 16, 2006 @12:19AM (#15136769)
    Along the way, they will also have to search for designated objects and report their findings back to base.
    Among the objects to be found: Sarah Connor
  • I just hope we've got a couple more years until these robots are also required to reproduce...
  • > Being a native-born German now holding dual U.S. citizenship, in theory, Thrun should have been able to participate, since the rules only state that one must be a European citizen in order to qualify.

    Um, in theory, he also doesn't have dual citizenship. At the moment, he aquired the U.S. citizenship, he lost his German citizenship. German law doesn't allow for dual citizenships, except for children, or you can't resign your previous citizenship.
  • by Xiph ( 723935 ) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @04:49AM (#15137389)
    While like both the darpa and the euro challenges, I also find that they are more a showcase for solving tasks of yesterdays war, with newer and modern toys. So far in warfare, robots are used much like human operated vehicles were used in WWI, for reconnaissance purposes and the fact that they're spending so many resources on maneuvering excersises, is more of a showcase for their limited vision, than the capabilities of robot technology. When they make these big expensive robots for warfare, they forget the primary reason robots are used in the first place; robots are expendable, and partially autonomous.

    The last part is where the european challenge at least gets something right. There's no need for fully autonomous vehicles on the battlefield, because the decisions you make on the battlefield require human accountability, when the situation is grave enough to throw away accountability, that's the time you launch the nukes.

    So how do we make a robotic system that takes those two benefits into account?
    My suggestion would be to use swarming, and standby robots. For instance, if I were to launch a robot air assault, with say 500 human controllers involved, i'd use standard hobbyshop vehicles, with advanced communication, some computing power and a weapon on each, keep it cheap, And i'd use somewhere along the line of 10,000 robots.
    The robots can be dropped from a plane, or send off from the ground, the later option will be cheapest the former will have greater range.
    The controllers will take control or partial control when they arrive, in early versions full control of a single plane, if there's no available controller, they'll go on standby somewhere close to the battlefield, When a robot goes down, they're allocated a new one from the pool of robots on standby.
    In a more advanced scenario the robots would create a 3d representation of the battlefield and the controllers will just point out targets, and possibly hit the fire button (for accountability reasons).

    But that's just one version, I think that a cool competition goal would be to design a system that can: Take out targets as fast as possible, as cheap as possible and as reliable as possible (reduce collateral damage), the targets can be anything from target dummies, over vehicles to other robots, in scenarios including regular, urban and guerilla warfare, police assignments and terrorist attacks.
    The reason i stop here is that i don't have the vision to go further, not that others should not try to think beyond it.

    • Mine disposal is definitely not yesterday's war.

      • Well.. disposal of infantry mines is becoming the remnant of yesterdays war.
        but i have to concede that you're right when it comes to anti-vehicle mines.
        and i guess clearing infantry mines will just become clearing improvised explosives devices. New name same basic principle.

        If you read my post, I'm ranting more about how they focus solely on doing things with single expensive units, and the lack of imagination in other roles. Robots are perfect for mine clearance, as long as they're either expandable,
    • In a more advanced scenario the robots would create a 3d representation of the battlefield and the controllers will just point out targets, and possibly hit the fire button (for accountability reasons).

      You've played too much Starcraft. A real battlefield is much, much, much more tricky, complicated and there's a lot of noise in your info. Navigating that alone (let alone shooting someone, much less the right guy) is a challenge for humans - robot technology is a decade at least away from just that.

      Up in the
  • That's really not fair!

    I mean HE is the winner of the DARPA GC, so why could they have denied the participation?

    When he is a German citizen (at least his car is German I believe) and the money that helped his team winning is coming from Volkswagen: Where is the problem?

    I wonder why the journalist did not ask the organiser or the Chief Judge about it?
    Would have been a good opportunity to clear things up, wouldn't it?


The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky