Red Team Update

On {Wednesday,Thursday}[TWO DATES GIVEN, SHOULD BE A DAY-asg], Carnegie Mellon’s Red Team received a Hummer H1 named H1ghlander from one of its sponsors, AM General. H1ghlander’s arrival was celebrated at Newell-Simon Hall. At the meeting, the Red Team’s Leader, Robotics Institute Fredkin Research Professor William “Red” Whittaker, vowed victory for the team in the second Grand Challenge.

The red H1 is the first of two vehicles to be donated by AM General. The civilian edition of the Hummer lacks the military features of its predecessor, no longer protected against ballistics and bearing no rifle mounts. However, it benefits from new technology and the team will spend just over a year preparing it for the big day. Plans for outfitting the vehicle involve lasers, high-end computers, on-board computer vision systems, and sophisticated navigation technology.

At any given time the team consists of about a hundred core members from an alliance of corporations, sponsors, and interested individuals. The number of team workers fluctuates based on the number of volunteers and students taking part in the 18-unit Mobile Robot Design course.

Last year, Carnegie Mellon’s Red Team took part in the first Grand Challenge. The Challenge presented competitors with a tough goal: Given only two hours’ notice of the course layout, each team digitally mapped out a route for its autonomous vehicle. After the race’s start, communication was no longer transmitted between a team and its vehicle. Each robot had to cross a portion of the Nevada desert with a relatively small amount of information about its path. Had any vehicles completed the course, the winner would have been determined by the fastest completion time less than ten hours.

The standout vehicle and leader of the race was the Red Team’s Sandstorm, an upgraded 1986 Humvee (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle). It traveled the farthest of any competitor, making a strong passage through seven and a half miles of the two hundred and ten mile journey. Few competitors made it to the starting line, and, of these, many did not even pass the first mile.

The second Grand Challenge will take place October 8, 2005; the Red Team will return with a pair of modified vehicles. Although the rules of next year’s Grand Challenge are essentially the same, a new group of competitors will be pitted against each other on a slightly smaller course layout filled with natural and man-made obstacles. The prize has also been inflated from one to two million dollars as a result of last year’s lack of a winner. Red Team is ready to rise to this new Challenge.