RED WHITTAKER: MAKING ROBOTS WORK
Late this past February, with less than three weeks remaining before the first ever long-distance race for robotic vehicles, William "Red" Whittaker left Carnegie Mellon University to spend a weekend in the Mojave east of Carson City, Nev. Desert testing of the autonomous humvee that Whittaker's "Red Team" was building had begun there 18 days before.
"Yesterday the vehicle drove itself at 32 miles per hour for eight miles along the old Pony Express trail," Whittaker said proudly as he showed off the humvee, named Sandstorm, to a sponsor he had brought with him from Pittsburgh. By the normal standards of mobile robotics, that would be a culminating demonstration for a research project. But to Whittaker, an eight-mile test was just a baby step. The Grand Challenge race would be 142 miles of perilous mountain switchbacks and rough, sandy trails.
This article was originally published with the title From Finish to Start.