DARPA Grand Challenge


Hey, you shade-tree mechanics! The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the same folks behind retired Adm. John Poindexter’s spiffy new Information Awareness Office (see www.darpa.mil/iao), will stage a race between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in February 2004. But this is not your grandpa’s gumball rally; the DARPA Grand Challenge apparently is aiming to generate the development of “autonomous ground vehicles,” or robotic cars, that can travel over long distances through such hostile environments as deserts and mountains. Race vehicles cannot be radio controlled or piloted by humans, which pretty much rules out any neighborhood Jethro and Buford types from pulling the motor out of an old F-150 and strapping it onto a couple of mountain bikes they welded together. But you eggheads and other high-tech Ferry Porsches might want to angle for the (paltry) $1 million prize.