SICK Laser Sensors Help Guide Driverless Vehicles

SICK (Minneapolis), which makes sensors, safety systems and automatic identification products for industrial applications, announced that its laser measurement system sensors are being used by 40 out of 43 teams during the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. A key component of the navigation systems, the laser systems are being used for terrain mapping and obstacle detection.

The diesel-powered, four-wheel drive vehicle--with front-mounted
SICK laser sensors--of Virginia Tech's Team Rocky.

Sponsored by the Department of Defense, the competition is designed to test state-of-the-art autonomous vehicle technology. The race will take place October 8, 2005, beginning and ending in Primm, Nev. The team that develops an autonomous ground vehicle that finishes the 175-mile route the quickest within 10 hours will receive $2 million. The exact route will not be revealed until two hours before the event begins.

“Few systems work as reliably as our SICK LMS and it is not surprising that during our research into autonomous ground vehicles we came across very few professional-grade robots that didn’t use at least one SICK Laser Measurement System,” commented Jorge Martin-de-Nicolas, team leader of Austin Robot Technology. According to David Armstrong, from Team CIMAR, "The NaviGATOR relies heavily on three SICK LADARs (Laser Measurement Sensors) to detect obstacles and to accurately map the rugged terrain in real time."

SICK non-contact LMS sensors offer accurate distance measurement and collision control throughout a scanning field up to 180 degrees. The LMS system operates by measuring time of flight laser light pulses—a pulsed laser beam is emitted and reflected if it meets an object. The sensor’s receiver registers the reflection.

Detailed information about the race and the individual teams can be found on DARPA’s website.


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