The Autonomous Driving competition has been taking place since the first edition of National Festival of Robotics, in 2001 in Guimarães. It constitutes a technical challenge in which a mobile, autonomous robot must traverse a route along a closed track, which resembles a conventional road
The track attempts to replicate a real scenario but the competition takes place in a structured and controlled environment. The track in eight-format simulates a two-way road with a zebra-crossing, a pair of traffic lights (one in each direction), a tunnel, a working zone, an obstacle and a parking area with one free space and one busy space. The position of the obstacle on the track and the exact location of the parking area and its free place are unknown to the robot at the beginning of his race. This challenge, where an autonomous mobile robot must navigate a route along a closed track, represents a technical test of medium complexity.
The competition has three phases that take place over three consecutive days, during which complexity is progressively increased through the addition of new challenges. In all three phases the robots start from the zebra-crossing, after the "go ahead" signal is displayed on the traffic light, and road independently on the track running two laps.
In addition to identifying the traffic light displayed by the panel, the first phase only requires movement control of the robot along the track. The robot must run two laps on the track as quickly as possible.
The second phase requires the robot to identify one of five different signals displayed by the dashboard light (simulating the traffic lights) and to react accordingly. The signs, shown through a TFT 17" screen, may indicate that the robot must stop or move in one of two directions (left or straight ahead), that the race has ended or that it should initiate parking manoeuvre. In the second phase, robots must also avoid an obstacle, which is obstructing one of the tracks in an unknown location. The obstacle must be detected and the robot must avoid it by following the track, without leaving it.
Finally, in the third phase two additional challenges are included: a tunnel that covers part of the course and a non-structured piece of track called ‘working zone’. The tunnel has significant impact in light conditions, therefore requiring a shift in navigation style by the robot. The working zone imposes a diversion route that is unknown a priori. The new route is marked by coloured cones (orange and white, similar to traffic cones but smaller), connected through a red/white plastic strip. Here, the robot must leave the normal track and follow the new path, without touching any of the elements that defines it, and re-enter the track area where roadwork ends.
Since 2011 a simplified variant of the competition was introduced, which is called ROOKIE CLASS. This version of the competition includes two phases:
A team is typically composed of a maximum of six elements but can integrate more elements, by paying an additional amount per element.
A single institution may register multiple teams. Teams representing educational institutions should be mainly formed by students from this institution but may include teachers or former students.