Artifact Details


NavLab and the Sutherland Walker

Catalog Number



Moving Image




Carnegie Mellon University. Robotics Institute

Place of Publication

Pittsburgh, PA, US

Identifying Numbers

Deprecated CHM identification number VT 522.93






The NavLab series of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles began as a research project at the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 1984. The first version of NavLab, profiled in this video, was a modified Chevrolet panel van with five racks of computing equipment installed, along with cameras, laser range-finders, and other sensors. The primary computing for route planning and analysis was handled by WARP, CMU’s systolic array supercomputer, and several Sun workstations. The NavLab series of robot vehicles has continued for more than 30 years, with 11 different versions evolving out of the same research. The NavLab 5, from the early 1990s, was the first to travel across country on standard highways, with minimal interaction from a human driver. It was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2008.

The Sutherland Walker was a six-legged all-terrain robotic designed by Sutherland Sproull Associates with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University under contract to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The robot used a gasoline motor to power its legs and required a driver to operate it via foot pedals. The machine would keep three legs on the ground at any given time, eliminating the need for balancing systems, though also limiting the speed of the system. Each leg could move forward, backwards, and side-to-side, allowing it to navigate across uneven surfaces.