Polaris provides wheels for DARPA Robotics Challenge

Polaris Ranger XP 900

One of the advantages of humanoid robots is that — in theory — they can make use of existing infrastructure and tools that were designed for humans. That premise will be put to the test in a big way at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where a variety of robots will be asked to perform human-like tasks at a simulated disaster site. The tasks include traversing difficult terrain, manipulating valves and, perhaps most impressively, driving an off-road vehicle.

The vehicle in question will come from Polaris Industries, which said today that it will provide a modified version of its Ranger XP 900 EPS. The vehicle was customized for the challenge with a remote SafeStop Electronic Throttle Kill and Brake Actuation technology and features a 1,000-pound capacity bed with space for the robot’s power supply.

The utility vehicle will be used in one of the competition’s eight tasks, since it represents the type of tool that would likely be available at a real disaster site. Polaris says the driving task will require the robots to drive the Ranger XP through a 250-foot course with obstacles and varied widths and exhibit the ability to turn the vehicle in a full circle.

“We have found off-road vehicles are some of the most useful vehicles in disaster relief due to their ease of transport and ability to traverse challenging terrain,” Patrick Weldon, product manager for Polaris Defense, said in a statement. “Our specialized vehicles are designed to the end user’s specifications. For the DARPA Robotics Challenge, the Rangers were built to accommodate the robots and provide mobility at the mock disaster site.”

Spectators are welcome to see for themselves how the robots fare. The DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials will be held Dec. 20-21 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., and are open to the public.

[ photo courtesy of Polaris ]

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