Engineering students Mike Myers and Micheal Forkin tweak Tommy Jr. Paul Perrone

Tommy survived the grueling twists and turns of the Mojave Desert last year.

This year, Tommy Jr. is proving its mettle in a different challenge, the stop and go of urban driving.

Both driverless vehicles are the fruits of Team Jefferson, a group of faculty, students and alumni of the University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Tommy was a silver egg-shaped dune buggy that was among semifinalists in a 40-car field, chosen from 195 applicants, that traversed 132 miles of Nevada desert.

Tommy Jr. is a modified Scion xB with advanced software that combines information from several data streams supplied by the car’s commercially available Global Positioning System—a stereo vision system, four laser range finders and a radar—that enable it to “see” up to 250 feet in all directions.

Team Jefferson and Tommy Jr. advanced to the semifinals of the 2007 Urban Challenge sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The 36 semifinalists competed in the national qualification event Oct. 26 through 31; the top 20 were chosen for the finals Nov. 3.

The Urban Challenge, held on a former Air Force base in Victorville, Calif., requires vehicles to autonomously traverse 60 miles of urban traffic conditions. That means stopping at intersections, merging with traffic, parallel parking, avoiding debris and, of course, avoiding collisions with the other robotic cars.