• United States

Intel’s grand challenge

Mar 25, 20042 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData Center

* How server technology was used in the DARPA-sponsored Grand Challenge robot race

Although there were no winners in the Grand Challenge Race, server technology played a role in the short-lived robot competition, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Of the 15 self-navigating vehicles, an unmanned Humvee built by students from Carnegie Mellon University used Intel Itanium 2 processors to maneuver along the course. The Red Team, as the group was known, successfully completed seven miles of the 210-mile course between Barstow, Calif., and Las Vegas, before it high-centered over a cliff and burned off its tires.

Called Sandstorm, the Humvee uses Intel Bandera-class Itanium 2s. The Bandera is an advanced development system of 4U high servers, codenamed Madison. In addition, four dual-processor Xeon servers were used for route planning and status monitoring. Since each vehicle must be self-maneuvering, the computers are installed in the vehicle itself and have no communication during the race with the team.

DARPA had offered $1 million to the winning team. The agency has spent $13 million on the Grand Challenge Race to prove that unmanned vehicles can operate and be beneficial in war zones.

Initially, 13 vehicles started the race. Sandstorm made it farthest along the course. A vehicle sponsored by Rockwell Scientific called Rascal finished second, followed by a team from the California Institute of Technology, whose vehicle became tangled in some barbed wire.

Grand Challenge vehicles must be able to traverse the route without human intervention or control. They need to be able to perform route selection and navigation and be able to sense ground conditions and features of the terrain. Further, they need to be able to control their speed and direction.

DARPA expects to run the Challenge once a year until there is a winner or until congressional spending for the race expires in 2007.