CarSim(R), Simulation Corporation's vehicle dynamics simulation software, was part of the Tartan Racing Team of Carnegie-Mellon University that took home the coveted first prize in the DARPA Urban Challenge, a robotic vehicle race Nov. 3 at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif.
From an original field of 89 teams, Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon's self-driving Chevy Tahoe, "Boss," competed against 10 other teams in the finals, winning a first prize of $2 million. The DARPA Urban Challenge is a competitive rally for autonomous cars during which they are required to navigate, park and deal with traffic on a 60-mile urban course. They must operate without human guidance and rely only on sensors and computers to obey traffic laws, merge into moving traffic, avoid obstacles and negotiate intersections. The vehicles had to think like human drivers and continually make split-second decisions to avoid moving vehicles, merge into traffic and safely pass through intersections. The Challenge is sponsored by the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Mechanical Simulation's CarSim was used by the Carnegie Mellon team to predict vehicle behavior over a wide range of road conditions and assist it in operating without a driver. CarSim is Mechanical Simulation's software package for simulating and animating the dynamic behavior of cars, light trucks and utility vehicles, utilizing driver, ground and aerodynamic inputs. CarSim animates simulated tests and generates about 600 output variables that are plotted and analyzed.
"We're honored to be able to participate in the type of leading-edge technology demonstrated in the DARPA Challenge," explained Thomas D. Gillespie, Ph.D., director of product planning and co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Mechanical Simulation. "The work being done by Carnegie Mellon -- and all these teams -- is reflected in the advancements in active safety systems within the automotive industry and in countless other programs in the future."
Mechanical Simulation President Terence Rhoades said, "We have participated in the DARPA Challenge with Carnegie Mellon for the past three years. The team has brought an impressive level of skill and creativity to this competition, and it's gratifying to see them achieve the highest honors. The competitions challenge us as much as they do the teams to produce vehicles that will respond to road hazards."