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Urban Challenge

Carnegie Mellon University/NREC and General Motors built an autonomous SUV (named “Boss”) that won first place in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, 20 minutes ahead of the 2nd place finisher. 

Eleven teams competed on a 60-mile city course at the Victorville training facility in California.  Vehicles had to conduct simulated missions in a mock urban area while obeying traffic laws, safely merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding other vehicles – all without human intervention.

CMU/NREC entered the Urban Challenge to make intelligent autonomous driving a safer, more efficient, and more accessible transportation for everyone. By 2020 auto accidents will become the third-leading cause of death.  Integrated, autonomous driver assistance systems and related safety technologies will prevent accidents and injuries and save lives. 

Autonomous driving technologies can also be used to improve workplace safety and productivity.  Assistance systems for heavy machinery and trucks will allow them to operate more efficiently and with less risk to drivers and bystanders. 

NREC provided software engineering to Tartan Racing, CMU’s team led by the Robotics Institute. The team pushed the boundaries for self-driving vehicle technology, especially in the areas of:

  • Perception
  • Static and dynamic obstacle detection and tracking.
  • Various path planners for on-road navigation, parking, passing, intersections, etc.
  • Efficient route planning with constantly-changing conditions.


Tartan Racing’s victory went beyond the race itself and sparked the race for commercial development of self-driving vehicle technology at many large organizations, both in the automotive and high-tech industry. Boss directly influenced most of today’s large self-driving vehicle development programs in the U.S. and abroad.

This program was funded by DARPA.