DARPA Urban Challenge: Traffic Circle Action

Many spectators have been congregating near a traffic circle early in the course, since it's where a lot of the action seems to be. A mandated lane change in the vicinity has been giving some of the vehicles fits; they appear to interpret the lane change incorrectly as a turn. In the end, most manage to make the lane shift after only a slight hesitation, but car #54, from the German team AnnieWay, lingered at the intersection for several minutes, backed up, paused, and backed up again before finally finding its way to the correct lane.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the course, #26—the Team Cornell vehicle—came to an unexplained stop smack in the middle of a lane of traffic and lingered there for several minutes before sorting out the confusion and getting back underway. #21, Team Oshkosh's 24,500-pound TerraMax truck, just smacked into a barrier and shows no signs of being inclined to get underway again.

It's mishaps like this that make some participants pessimistic about the potential outcome of the race. "It's definitely a strong field, but the challenges are much more difficult than they were two years ago," says David Armstrong of the University of Florida's Gator Nation team, which was eliminated in the early rounds. "I don't think anyone's going to finish."—Elizabeth Svoboda