Chip maker VIA is to sponsor a team in the controversial million dollar DARPA Grand Challenge robot race. Team LoGHIQ plans to build a robot that will navigate an obstacle course using a combination of stereovision and dead-reckoning GPS.
The race has attracted a fair amount of controversy after organisers apparently changed the entry rules after being swamped with submissions.
Entrants were competing for just 25 slots and some argued that the last minute rule change favoured the bigger teams. Team LoGHIQ, however, is composed of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduates and family members living in up-state New York. The group is working to a total budget of approximately $50,000, and will draw on experience in solar vehicle design, mechanical engineering, physics, computer systems and computer programming to create the vehicle "from the ground up".
In a prepared statement, team leader Seth Cabe said that pitting the team’s ideas “against the best in the world in a real life test is the ultimate challenge".
The autonomous vehicle is based on a VIA EPIA M10000 Mini-ITX mainboard running a stripped-down version of Slackware Linux. The board’s low power requirement and smaller size were apparently major factors in its selection.
Teams are scheduled to face off in Barstow, California, in a real-world conditions test. Those vehicles that prove themselves capable of handling the terrain unsupported will get a place in the final.
Timothy Brown, Robotics Program Manager at VIA Technologies, commented: "These resourceful young guys are challenging the establishment by developing their own potentially disruptive technologies from readily available parts and components."
The million dollar prize will go to the team whose progeny is the first to reach Las Vegas, unaided, in under ten hours. ®