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Team DAD Advances in $2 Million DARPA Grand Challenge Qualification

Driverless, self-navigating truck, enabled by Texas Instruments technology, will compete in race for unmanned vehicles

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 20 -- Team Digital Auto Drive (DAD), a research and development organization focused on commercializing automotive vision-recognition and navigational systems, today announced that its vehicle is a semi-finalist in the $2 million 2005 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge, an automotive event designed to test unmanned, self-navigating or autonomous vehicle technology. The technologies employed in Team DAD's vehicle are designed for future adoption in both military and consumer automotive applications. For more info on Team DAD, please visit http://www.digitalautodrive.com/ .

After successfully passing a series of rigorous on-site tests under the watchful eye of DARPA judges, Team DAD is one of 40 teams that qualified to participate in the National Qualification Event (NQE) at the California Speedway in Fontana, California, September 27 to October 5. Twenty NQE finalists will compete on October 8 in the 150-mile DARPA Grand Challenge to crown the leading driverless vehicle. Team DAD's vehicle integrates the latest digital signal processing (DSP) technology from Texas Instruments (TI) into a 2005 Toyota Tundra truck for vision navigation and vehicle control systems that can navigate changing, rugged terrain independent of any human interaction. More than 118 teams entered the competition this year.

As the only vehicle solely relying on DSP technology, the Team DAD truck's autonomous decision-making capability is fast enough to maintain speeds up to and in excess of 100 mph -- a significant competitive advantage over other sensor- and vision-based entries. Additionally, the Team DAD truck is street legal and externally varies very little from a standard Tundra truck, unlike many other entries in the DARPA challenge.

"DARPA was very impressed with our all-in-one approach," said Bruce Hall, team spokesperson for Digital Auto Drive. "Team DAD's truck integrates multiple, high-performance TI DSP chips into a single, compact navigation and obstacle detection system, which could be easily deployed in any standard vehicle. This is juxtaposed to the large racks of systems that fill the cargo compartments in some of our competitors' vehicles."

The site visit required that entrants set up a 200-meter course with markers at 10 meter intervals, no more than 10 waypoints, and two 30 degree minimum turns. Teams were also required to supply two trash barrel obstacles that DARPA placed in random spots along the course. Each team was required to accomplish three test runs and an additional fourth optional run on a course of their choosing to demonstrate their technology and their vehicle's capabilities.

"We had the mandatory 200 meter course laid out, but instead of the two 30 degree turns DARPA called for we decided to use 90 degree turns," Hall said. "Our best run, including avoiding two obstacles, was 22 seconds at a speed of approximately 25 mph. To navigate the turns, TI's TMS320C2000(TM) DSP-based controllers managed the steering servo motor and turned the steering wheel two full turns in less than a second. We were certainly screeching our tires around the corners! The 1 GHz TMS320C6000(TM) DSP from TI did all obstacle avoidance work and our navigation system worked perfectly with very high resolution."

Although no vehicle completed the first Grand Challenge in March 2004, Team DAD was one of three teams to make it the furthest in the course, and one of only four teams to make it past the one-mile marker. Over the past year, Team DAD has built on previous technological success and implemented new technologies and strategies to overcome virtually any obstacle, as well as additional challenges the course may present.

About the DARPA Grand Challenge

Created in response to a Congressional and U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) mandate that one-third of all military vehicles are autonomous by 2015, the DARPA Grand Challenge is a field test intended to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles to help save lives on the battlefield. The Grand Challenge brings together individuals and organizations from different industries, the research and development community, government, the armed services, academia, students, backyard inventors and automotive enthusiasts in the pursuit of a technological challenge. The team that develops an autonomous ground vehicle that finishes the designated route most quickly within 10 hours will receive $2 million. The exact route will not be revealed until two hours before the event begins. Detailed information can be found on the DARPA website: http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge .

About Digital Auto Drive (DAD)

Digital Auto Drive (DAD) is a research and development organization focused on commercializing vision-recognition based on 3D imaging and navigational technologies. DAD's first goal is to win the DARPA Grand Challenge, proving DAD technology in a real-world application. For more information, visit http://www.digitalautodrive.com/ .

TI Technology in the Team DAD Truck

Team DAD's truck relies on a proprietary real-time imaging (RTI) system, based on TI's industry-leading 1 GHz DSPs that process over 30 billion pixels per second, enabling the vehicle to see 700 to 800 feet ahead. The RTI system creates a three dimensional terrain map 60 times per second and identifies obstacles, selecting the best vehicle course from over 100 possibilities. Direction and speed of the Team DAD vehicle are both controlled by a single highly-integrated Texas Instruments DSP controller that reconciles the estimated 5,000 GPS waypoints provided by DARPA. For more information, visit http://www.ti.com/1ghzproductionpr .