Home Blog Archives RSS
¶ Urban Challenge testing at El Toro
Today marks the end of the second week that I've spent out in California. There are four more days of testing before we pack up and ship out one last time. It's an odd feeling, knowing that so much of this is coming to an end soon.

We shipped our LR3 on October 3rd via a company that specializes in transporting cars. Ed and I left the following day and spent a few days in Detroit, helping out the Ford motor company's team (long story). After a few intense days in Detroit whipping them into shape, we arrived here in El Toro and began preparing for the arrival of our car and the rest of our team. In the meantime, we still had a huge amount of code to write, and converted our hotel rooms into remote offices -- everything from buying desk lamps at Staples to setting up the desktop workstations we shipped from Cambridge. It's a bit of a shame that in the two weeks we've been here, we still haven't had time to do much sightseeing or check out the area. We've been so focused on keeping our heads down, writing code, fixing bugs, and testing, that we really haven't explored Irvine and LA at all.

Our testing here happens at a decommissioned Marine base in El Toro that we've leased access to. It's similar to the decommissioned Naval air station that we tested at in Weymouth, but much larger and actually has a road network that we can use for urban driving. The marine base itself is quite something. The buildings were all abandoned years ago, the roads are overgrown with trees and bushes, and a clan of groundhogs (or some other small burrowing mammal) has taken root. Every now and then, when things quiet down, we see one of them standing up in the middle of the field, tentatively testing the air before shooting back down the instant something else moves. Through force of habit, we brought a few hundred pounds of flour with us and have been putting down lane markings with our field marking machine. Only now, instead of geese lining up to feast on the buffet of flour, we have groundhogs and crows.

In some vague way, it's like driving our car through the aftermath of a war zone. Just yesterday, a spent 9mm gun casing punctured one of our tires and halted our testing for the day. I suppose it's appropriate in some way, given that DARPA clearly intends on using this sort of technology for military purposes. I walked through some of abandoned barracks today (we're technically not allowed to, but there isn't really anyone around to stop us) and it's not like anything I normally ever see. Broken furniture strewn about, empty swimming pools and officers' clubs, stray cans of pepsi that are 10 years old, ripped up carpeting, it's a little creepy. And less than 500 yards away is an onramp to I-5, one of the major highways on the west coast, spanning the entire nation from north to south.

Movies on DIVX Ipod movies Full movies online PDA moviesThriller movies Caltech has also been testing in the Marine base, and we run into them every now and then. I'm hoping that as we approach a stable system, I'll have more time to go and meet the Caltech students, take a ride in their car, and see how they're doing. The Ford team showed up this week, and has been testing almost side by side with us. Cornell is supposedly showing up tomorrow, so it'll be a big robot car pre-party.

I still have no idea what our prospects of winning are. Some days it feels great, other days I do wonder if we'll be a complete embarrassment to MIT. Overall, I feel pretty good, but since we've never done this sort of thing before, it's hard to know what to expect. At any rate, with each passing day, there's less and less that we're able to change, and pretty soon we'll just have to step back and see what sort of life we've breathed into our car.

No comments, be the first!

Comments disabled until the spammers go away. I hope you comment spammers all die horrible deaths and are forced to delete endless streams of comment spam in your days in purgatory.
• Powered by bBlog