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April 18, 2008

Robot Cars Battle At 2008 Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach

Toyotagrandprixlogo No, we're not talking Trasformers or robotic race car drivers here.  As a matter of fact we're talking cars with NO drivers! Three entirely robotic vehicles are scheduled to be part of the April 18-20, 2008, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach's ground-breaking "Green Power Prix-View," highlighting futuristic alternative-energy vehicles.

The three cars will be competing in this weekend's "Robotic Grand Prix" which begins at noon on Sunday.  Each car will take one lap of the 1.97-mile, 11-turn circuit, with the quickest time deciding the winner.

"Boss" is a 2007 Chevy Tahoe engineered by students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of the famed Robotics Institute, and winner of the $2 million first place prize in the recent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA)  "Urban Challenge" at Victorville, California.  "Junior," a 2006 VW Passat Wagon, modified by the students and faculty at Stanford University, captured the $1 million second-place prize.  "Ben," a Toyota Prius built by students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University, finished sixth at the DARPA Challenge.

The U.S. military plans to operate one-third of its vehicles without drivers by the year 2015, and the DARPA Challenge competition aims to help integrate car safety and robotics towards that goal. More than 30 teams entered in 2007, from as far as Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Berlin, Germany.  All robotic vehicles had to navigate traffic circles, avoid moving obstacles and merge into lanes without human intervention...all the while obeying California traffic laws.

During the Urban Challenge, Boss averaged 14.0 mph, a shade faster than Junior's 13.7 mph, while both hit speeds of more than 30 mph. All three vehicles featured an impressive array of electronic equipment options you won't find on your family sedan....such as a Velodyne HD Lidar that looks in every direction ten times a second, combining 64 individual lasers into millions of 3D points at up to 65 meters!

Green Power Prix-View will feature extensive, weekend-long displays starring Junior, The Boss and Ben and a wide variety of other alternative energy vehicles, including on-circuit activities.  Fans attending the 34th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will also have the opportunity to participate in an alternative energy vehicle ride/drive program, scheduled for Sunday, April 20 (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.) on the east side of the Grand Prix circuit.

Plus, all weekend long, the Lifestyle and Alternative Energy Expo in the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center will highlight renewable energy sources, water and energy conservation, green building and healthy lifestyles for inside AND outside the home.

The Expo is open race weekend from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday and, like all in-circuit Green Power Prix-View events, is free with a race ticket.

Ticket prices for the three-day Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach range from $25 for a Friday General Admission ticket (no reserved seat) to $125 for a three-day ticket that includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating in grandstand upper levels.  Pre-paid parking packages are also available.

Credit card orders for the 2008 event can be placed by calling the toll-free ticket hotline - (888) 82-SPEED - or online by visiting Handicapped seating, Champ Car Paddock Passes, Super Photo tickets and a wide variety of Hospitality Club packages are also available. A ticket brochure that includes a circuit map, ticket prices and order form can be obtained by calling the hotline.

By Brandy Schaffels Editor


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