All Systems Go: The Lone Wolf Racecar Takes Itself For a Spin In Preparation for the DARPA Urban Challenge
MINNEAPOLIS — August 16, 2007…
In a final test and demonstration before the upcoming 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, the autonomous race car, the Lone Wolf, took itself for a spin yesterday at sponsor Comtrol Corporation’s headquarters in Minneapolis, MN. This unmanned, computer-driven Lotus Elise employs forward-thinking technology from progressive manufacturers such as Comtrol and SICK, Inc., two long-standing industry leaders from Minnesota. Comtrol supplies the Lone Wolf with DeviceMaster® equipment instrumental to coordinating the car’s complex system of sensors necessary for autonomous operation. These innovative laser measurement system sensors, developed by SICK, use laser radar technology to help the car “see” obstacles and navigate the terrain.
The Lone Wolf from Insight Racing is an entrant in the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Urban Challenge taking place on Nov. 3. The race is part of a congressional-mandated research initiative to ensure that by the year 2015, one-third of military vehicles will function autonomously in an effort to help isolate troops from roadside threats. The Lone Wolf’s programming, which allows it to maneuver in traffic with no human assistance, also provides many opportunities for enhancement of future automobiles. Yesterday’s demonstration offered media representatives, local government officials and a select group of University of Minnesota engineering students a chance to see the future of transportation firsthand.
Comtrol’s DeviceMaster allows real-time data to be fed from SICK vehicle sensors to on-board computers, enabling the Lone Wolf to react to intersections, other moving vehicles and traffic laws. Comtrol’s data communications products are widely used to connect and control peripheral serial devices in industrial automation applications, military sensor devices, process control and manufacturing automation devices, and transportation/traffic monitoring and control systems. By combining their efforts, Insight Racing, Comtrol and SICK have delivered a solution pertinent to the everyday lives of commuters worldwide. This technology also may eliminate some of the current threat to soldiers operating vehicles in military combat.
The Lone Wolf awoke early yesterday morning, providing ride-alongs for industrial representatives starting at 6:30 a.m. Comtrol also invited local media to take a test ride in the Lotus Elise unmanned vehicle, later offering a behind-the-scenes look at the technology behind the drive. A host of engineering students from the U of M also were encouraged to attend. The students enjoyed an exclusive opportunity to experience this cutting-edge vehicle.
“We’re thrilled to be part of this important collaboration with Insight Racing and SICK, and participating in an initiative to help save lives in military combat is an honor,” said Bradford Beale, Comtrol vice-president. “We’ve offered innovative data communications products to military and industrial applications for a quarter century, but with this and many more applications in queue, we’ve really struck a chord with modern culture. Today we saw from the earliest Lone Wolf demonstrations that attendees—especially U of M students—were excited to see how this technology may effect each of them individually, as well as change the way we think of transportation as a whole.”
These product innovations certainly left an impression on attendees, but an even more impressive display of technological advancements lies within the vehicle’s construction. Jeff Wuendry, product marketing manager for SICK, further explained how this sophisticated vehicle is able to operate autonomously.
“The SICK Laser Measurement System (LMS) Sensors are one of the key components of the navigation system, helping the car to ‘see’ using innovative laser radar technology,” Wuendry said. “The LMS relies on Comtrol’s DeviceMaster to enable real-time communication of terrain and obstacle data to the Lone Wolf’s multiple computer systems.”
In addition to the regularly scheduled ride-alongs, the day granted the eager audience a sneak peek at Lone Wolf’s final testing before November’s race. During this test and demonstration, Grayson Randall, President of Insight Racing, discussed the importance of autonomous vehicles and the many components of the Lone Wolf race car, which has been chronicled recently by both the Discovery Channel and BBC Films. After a lively press conference, attendees had the opportunity to speak with Comtrol, SICK and Insight Racing representatives one-on-one about the car’s operation and how this technology is applied in industrial automation. The day’s events left everyone eager for the upcoming race.
“The testing was a complete success, and the Lone Wolf is more than ready for the Urban Challenge,” said Kris Rydberg, Comtrol director of product development and corporate strategy. “We are excited to see the culmination of our efforts at November’s race, and we anticipate that this vehicle will perform very well on the course.”
With activities wrapping up late afternoon, Comtrol gathered its employees together for another event—this one marking the company’s 25th year in business. The anticipation of the Lone Wolf’s race at the Urban Challenge made this celebration of the company’s success even sweeter.
“We have a great team at Comtrol that made today’s event possible, and they have consistently shown excellence by making top-of-the-line communication and integration technologies for 25 years,” Beale said. “We’re very proud of this collaboration with Insight Racing and SICK, and we look forward to the next quarter century of developing advancements for this and many additional industries.”
To watch video footage of the Lone Wolf in action at Comtrol, visit www.comtrol.com
Comtrol is the product leader in data communications products for office, industrial, hospitality, and retail automation markets. Comtrol products include in-server multiport cards and modems, Ethernet-attached hubs, and programmable device and application servers sold through more than 50 regional, national, and international distributors and thousands of resellers and integrators worldwide. For more information on Comtrol products and technologies, contact: Comtrol Corporation, 6655 Wedgwood Road, Suite 120, Maple Grove, MN 55311-3610. Phone: +1.800.926.6876 (1.800.GO ROCKET); Email: [email protected]; Web: www.comtrol.com