The Overbot Project

The Overbot has been folded into the ARVIN / R3EP project, and further details can be found there.

The Overbot was built to race in the DARPA Grand Challenge 2004. The parameters of the race were fairly simple: 250 miles across the desert, no drivers allowed, first across the finish line in under 10 hours wins $1 Million. 2nd across the finish line takes nothing. The results of the first race were a fiasco: the best car went 7 miles before failing, and most of the other vehicles failed even sooner than that, despite several teams spending millions of dollars on their vehicles.

The race was ran again in 2005, with much better results (and a shorter and less challenging course, 131 miles), with five teams that made it across the finish line. The Overbot went to the National Qualifying Event (NQE) both years, but did not succeed in qualifying for the race.

The Overbot is a Polaris 6x6 off-road vehicle that has been modified extensively for autonomous driving. It is equipped with a forward looking scanning LiDAR, sonar, color camera, radar, and computer controlled throttle, steering, and brakes. It uses a differential GPS unit as its main positioning sensor.

The Overbot was generously donated by the Silicon Valley Off-Road Robotics Association (SVORA) to UC Santa Cruz for continued research on obstacle avoidance and autonomous driving.


  1. Video of Overbot made for during summer 2007 spine-based obstacle avoidance tests, shown at AIAA GNC conference 2008.

  2. Video of Overbot made for 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, along with autonomous driver testing at UC Santa Cruz.


  1. (1)Choi, J., Elkaim,G., “Bézier Curves for Trajectory Guidance,” World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science, WCECS 2008, San Francisco, CA, Oct. 22-24, 2008 (pdf)

  2. (2)Connors, J., and Elkaim, G., “Trajectory Generation and Control Methodology for an Autonomous Ground Vehicle,” AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference, AIAA GNC 2008, Honolulu, HI, Aug. 18-21, 2008 (pdf)

  3. (3)Connors, J., Elkaim,G., “Experimental Results for Spline Based Obstacle Avoidance of an Off-Road Ground Vehicle,” ION Global Navigation Satellite Systems Conference, ION GNSS 2007, Fort Worth, TX, Sept. 25-28, 2007, pp. 1484-1490 (pdf)

  4. (4)Connors, J., Elkaim, G., “Analysis of a Spline Based, Obstacle Avoiding Path Planning Algorithm,” IEEE Vehicle Technology Conference, IEEE VTC 2007, Dublin, Ireland, Apr. 22-25, 2007, pp. 2565-2569 (pdf)

  5. (5)Connors, J., Elkaim, G., “Manipulating B-Spline Based Paths for Obstacle Avoidance in Autonomous Ground Vehicles,” ION National Technical Meeting, ION NTM 2007, San Diego, CA, Jan. 22-24, 2007, pp. 1081-1088 (pdf)

  6. (6)Elkaim, G., Connors, J., and Nagel, J., “The Overbot: An Off-Road Autonomous Ground Vehicle Testbed,” ION Global Navigation Satellite Systems Conference, ION GNSS 2006, Fort Worth, TX, Sept. 22-24, 2006, pp. 1449-1456 (pdf)

  7. (7)Nagel, J., ‘The Overbot: DARPA Grand Challenge 2005 Technical Paper,” 2005. (pdf).


  1. Gabriel Elkaim, Associate Professor, Computer Engineering, UCSC, 831.459.3054

  2. Ji-Wung “Karl” Choi, Ph.D. Student (graduated), now a postdoc at TUT, Finland.

  3. John Connors, Masters Student (graduated), CE UCSC, now at WrightSpeed

Overbot Project