The Water Dogs
I saw my first self-driving car in 2018 in Palo Alto, California.
I was on my way to my office in an Uber and there it was. An autonomous car navigating its way through a busy intersection.
My thoughts immediately went back to 2007 when a good friend Don converted his mother’s car into an autonomous car. He is the Director of Technology for the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Engineering.
They entered it into the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. The contest tested who could design and build the best self-driving car.
When it began in 2004, the DARPA Grand Challenge had driverless cars compete in the Mojave Desert. The goal was simply to finish a 150 mile off-road course. The winning team got $1 million. That first year, none of the cars finished.
Carnegie Mellon University’s car Sandstorm went the furthest, though, so it was deemed the victor. It travelled just 7.3 miles.
The 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge was more complex, and there had been several challenges in between. The cars had to complete a 60-mile urban course, navigating complex urban streets and abiding by driving laws. The prize that year was $2 million for first place, $1 million for second, and $500,000 for third.
Knight Rider came in at seventh place out of 53 teams. Not bad for a car that was hauling groceries home for Don’s mom only a few months earlier.
By 2018, self-driving cars had arrived on our public roadways. This technology has advanced rapidly. And the idea of self-driving is no longer limited to cars.
Fast forward to 2023: Don moved from Knight Rider and the DARPA Challenge onto the seas. He’s mentoring a team for RoboBoat, an international autonomous boat competition put on in part by the U.S. Navy.
The goal is to design and build a self-driving boat that can navigate real world challenges facing the marine industry.
However, the Knight Rider project took place at UCF, a well-established technology university. The Roboboat team is from a high school and they call themselves The Water Dogs.
This young team worked hard to solve the self-driving boat riddle. They had to create a boat that could operate autonomously and solve several maritime transport obstacles. The competition tasks include:
- Navigate the Panama Canal
- Navigate a route and count manatees and jelly fish
- Dock into a specific area and count “eggs”
- Timed race around buoys
- Collect debris from a five-foot area in the ocean
- Shoot balls into a net
- Shoot water through a target
- Return to the start of the course in autonomous mode
As you can see, this is an extraordinarily complex set of tasks. It’s far more than just a self-driving boat.
It takes enormous creativity and thought leadership. Their unique design comes from thinking outside of the box (or in this case, outside the boat).
And these kids made it to the RoboBoat finals being held on March 22 in Sarasota, Florida.
We here at Mangrove Investor love these stories of innovation, especially when it is the next generation leading it.
So, whether it is delivering your next pizza or cleaning pollution from the ocean, autonomous technology has come a long way. And we are excited to see where it goes.
Have you had an experience with the next generation doing great things for technology or the planet? We would love to hear from you!
Email us at WeCare@MangroveInvestor.com
For The Good,
Numbers to Know
The number of miles driven in California by test autonomous vehicles in 2022.(California DMV)
The estimated number of self driving cars that could be on the U.S. roadways by 2025. This could “reduce the frequency of accidents by almost 90%.” (National Association of Insurance Commissioners)
The date that the Mayflower Autonomous Ship arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It had crossed the Atlantic from the U.K. This is the first boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean with no helping hand. (MAS400)
But many of these investments have not realized any sort of return. Some have even spelled disaster. (Automotive News)
Ford abandons plans to develop Level 4 (self-driving) technology. Instead it has chosen to pursue in house development of Level 3 (driver aware) technology. (CNN)
Video Of The Week
Self-driving electric container ship sets sail in Norway
Sure, having your Tesla drive you to the movies is cool.
But how about a giant, autonomous, fully electric cargo ship!