Are you watching the DARPA Grand Challenge progress? If not you should be. This is the cutting edge of autonomous vehicle development. There are plenty of exotic tools and technologies coming into play - although more off the shelf parts are now available compared to the first 2004 Grand Challenge when teams had to fabricate so much more.
The DARPA Grand Challenge has been getting tougher and tougher each year. In 2004 it was completing a 142 mile desert course, 2005, a 132 mile desert course in under 10 hours. In 2007 the autonomous vehicles must now demonstrate that they can drive in the urban environment, integrating with the flow of traffic and avoiding obstacles.
There are many really cool things about the Princeton University Urban Challenge Team, not only have they made it as one of the 36 semi-final teams, not only are they all undergraduates, but they are also using Microsoft Robots Studio as their development and execution platform.
Running across their five dual-core servers, 25 MSRS services are controlling the vehicles sensors, actuators and decision logic. This is the largest public demonstration of the MSRS platform I have seen and demonstrates the awesome potential of MSRS which spans Lego robots to autonomous vehicles leading R&D.
The team have a great website here with two videos of their most recent run.
The challenge semi-final - called the Urban Challenge National Qualification Event (NQE) - takes place at Victorville, California on the 26-31 October 2007.
I'm certainly supporting these guys and will be watching them compete in October. Go Princeton!