The Ben Franklin Racing Team

The Ben Franklin Racing Team

The Ben Franklin Racing Team is a collaborative effort lead by the University of Pennsylvania with Lehigh University and ATL @ Lockheed Martin to develop safe autonomous ground vehicles for urban navigation. The team has fielded an entry in the 2007 DARPA Urban Grand Challenge. Our car is a modified 2006 Toyota Prius named “Little Ben.”

Little Ben, the team, and our DARPA Officials

Urban Challenge Site Visit

On July 8, 2007 officials from DARPA came to Goodman Campus at Lehigh University to judge Little Ben. Ben Franklin Racing was one of 53 teams to be awarded a site visit after the original video submission. During this visit, Ben demonstrated his ability to obey precedence at busy intersections, pass double parked vehicles, as well as plan an optimal course while ensuring certain checkpoints were obtained. Ben’s performance lead to the team later being named a semi-finalist in the Urban Challenge.

Urban Challenge Qualification

The team was selected for participation in the Urban Challenge National Qualifying Event (NQE) at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, California from October 26-31, 2007. A total of 35 teams participated in the qualification event in which cars were subjected to a winnowing process aimed at testing their skills, which included: parking, merging with other traffic vehicles and obeying traffic safety laws. Little Ben was one of only 6 vehicles to qualify early for the final race and was the first Track B robot to do so. Given his outstanding performance, he was awarded poll position four in the Urban Challenge Final Event (UFE).

Urban Challenge Final Event

On November 3, 2007 the final race was held with only 11 robots qualifying to run. This was 9 fewer than DARPA had originally planned. Ben was the fourth robot to cross the finish line and was among the only six to complete the 55 mile course! Ben was the only Track B robot to complete the challenge!

Little Ben


Little Ben is a 2006 Toyota Prius, outfitted with sophisticated sensor suite, which includes:

– A Velodyne HD LIDAR
– 2 Sick LD-LRS 1000 Long Range LIDARs
– 3 Sick LMS 291 LIDARS
– 3 Hokuyo Short Range LIDARs
– A Point Grey Bumblebee II Stereo Camera
– An OxTS Real-time GPS w/ IMU

Little Ben was controlled by a rack of 8 Mac-minis running Ubuntu Edgy.
His drive-by-wire actuation was installed by Electronic Mobility Controls (EMC).


Awaiting the Official Announcement


Media Coverage