DARPA approves 19 for Grand Challenge

DARPA Grand Challenge Web site

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency officials announced 19 finalist teams earlier this month for the agency's March 2004 Grand Challenge.

DARPA officials previously announced they would host a race of unmanned robotic vehicles from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, with a grand prize of $1 million. DARPA originally said all comers could participate, but the agency recently imposed a cap of 20 teams, coming from academia — including one high school team from California — commercial companies and groups of individual citizens.

"There are factors beyond DARPA's control that limit the number of vehicles that can participate in the Los Angeles to Las Vegas event," wrote Col. Jose Negron, DARPA's race director. "The need to comply with environmental regulations, ensure the safety of the participants and spectators and complete the event within the number of available daylight hours limit what can be accomplished in one day."

The research agency selected 19 teams to come to a qualification identification and demonstration phase as a prerequisite to starting the Challenge. DARPA will visit 19 others to pick a team for the final slot and five alternate positions.

DARPA describes the Grand Challenge as a way "to leverage American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that can be applied to military requirements," according to the race's Web site. The vehicles must determine, on their own and with no human intervention, how to get over, around or through terrain obstructions.

Vehicles must navigate "from point to point in an intelligent manner so as to avoid or accommodate obstacles and other impediments to the completion of their missions," DARPA said. "For example, an extremely large vehicle that simply travels on a straight line between two points by climbing over or breaking through everything in its path (and destroying what cannot support that movement) is not the type of intelligent solution that is sought."

The DARPA Web site did not say how the 19 teams were selected, nor did it indicate how the final race slot will be filled. DARPA did not immediately reply to inquiries.

Grand Challenge FinalistsNameHometown
Axiom RacingWestlake Village, Calif.
CyberRiderCapistrano, Calif.
Digital Auto Drive (Team DAD)Morgan Hill, Calif.
Insight RacingCary, N.C.
Palos Verdes High School Road Warriors Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
Rob Meyer ProductionsTucson, Ariz.
SciAutonicsThousand Oaks, Calif.
SciAutonics IIThousand Oaks, Calif.
Team Arctic TortoiseFairbanks, Ark.
Team CaltechPasadena, Calif.
Team ENSCOSpringfield, Va.
Team LoGHIQWalden, N.Y.
Team OverbotRedwood City, Calif.
Team Spirit of Las Vegas (TSOLV)Edwards, Calif.
The Blue TeamBerkeley, Calif.
The Golem GroupPasadena, Calif.
The ION TeamOshkosh, Wis.
The Red Team Pittsburgh, Pa.
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Va.

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