Monday, October 10, 2005

DARPA Grand Challenge

The DARPA Grand Challenge has been successfully completed by a few teams, and was won by Stanley, the entry from Stanford University. Carnegie Mellon took 2nd and 3rd place in the 131.6-mile off-road race for autonomous robotic vehicles. Last year, the best entry only managed to travel 7.36 miles. What, you may ask, was the biggest difference between last year and this year? Three words: Corporate cash infusion. The technology didn't improve significantly, it simply became more accessible to the teams.
The prize is $2,000,000.00, but the development cost for these vehicles can easily reach 20x that amount. DARPA (1996) evolved from ARPA (1993), which in turn evolved from DARPA (1972), which evolved from -- you guessed it -- ARPA (1958) [to D or not to D, seems like the DoD doesn't know]. The original (pre-D) ARPA was responsible for the ARPANet, which evolved into today's Internet.