Linux Powered PS3 to be used in DARPA Urban Challenge
Axion Racing was the first team to autonomously drive up to the top of Colorado's Pike Peak and now leads the way by finding cutting edge uses for the beleaguered Sony PS3. This two time DARPA Grand Challenge qualifier is the first racing team to implement Yellow Dog Linux and a Sony PlayStation game console to manage one of seven autonomous vehicle cameras.
Maybe things aren't all that bad for Sony in the company's fight with Microsoft and Nintendo to sell the latest crop of game stations. A California company will be implementing a Sony PlayStation to process cameras information used to autonomously drive during this November's $2 million DARPA Urban Challenge. With four years of autonomous racing experience and using Yellow Dog Linux, San Diego's Axion Racing is excited about showing folks other things that can be done using a PlayStation console. Axion Racing qualified as the sixth team for the 2004 and the third team for the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenges. The team's autonomous vehicle Spirit, was the first car to drive itself up to the 14,100 foot top of Colorado's Pikes Peak.
NNews Imageever one to back down from any challenge, Axion Racing's Team Leader Bill Kehaly expects great things from his team's Sony PS3 console. "We felt having cars drive themselves was getting a little too easy, so we threw the Sony PlayStation into our bag of tricks," joked Kehaly. The PS3 joins Axion's cadre of Dell computers, SICK laser finders, Bumblebee stereo cameras, and FLIR infrared cameras all guided by twin Navcom Starfire GPS units. A Northrop Grumann LN-270 INS uses the earth's inertia to help keep Spirit on track during any GPS multitasking issues.
The 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge features autonomous ground vehicles conducting simulated military supply missions in a mock urban area. These ground vehicles will drive through streets without any human interaction or remote control. This years qualifying round will be held in Fontana, California from October 26th through the 31st. The DARPA Urban Challenge will be held on November 3rd, at a still unspecified location.
The Sony PS3 was built with a new processor developed specially for the PlayStation console. The Cell processor, as it is known, is based on the PowerPC processor by IBM. The PS3 uses four processors that help Axion Racing's computer arbitrator to quickly examine information from a RGB road finding camera. "It isn't easy and some kinks are still being ironed out, but I see this as a useful tool," stated Richard Kalling, the Path Planning Director for Axion Racing.
Axion Racing wasn't given $1 million in recent US Government seed funding, to prepare for this year's DARPA Urban Challenge. It did start and finish ahead of all but three 2005 race teams that did get funding. "I don't get mad, I just try to get even." explained Kehaly. "Our team was the first with an autonomous vehicle you could comfortably sit in, we have the photogenic Axion Racing Twins, we were the first to autonomously drive to the top of Pikes Peak, and now we plan on showing that a Sony PS3 can be an important part of future autonomous vehicles."
By using a powerful computer system like the PS3, Axion Racing hopes to have enough tools to win this year's DARPA Urban Challenge. It is expected that this new use of a PlayStation will present the processing capabilities inherent in this latest Sony game console. "We like to think out of the box, using the latest publicly available computer boxes, and we only use boxes that help raise us above our competition," stated Kehaly.
Axion Racing's Sony PS3, sensors, lights, sounds, and the autonomous vehicle's other computers are powered by a Marine battery unit that allows Spirit to run unmanned for many hours. Who knows, maybe a little autonomous racing success is just what's needed to improve sales numbers for the Sony PlayStation.