Monday, October 23, 2006

DARPA Grand Challenge may lose its prize

DARPA is planning to follow its original Grand Challenge with a new contest for moving a robotic car in urban traffic. However, it appears that the $2.75 million in prize money has hit a pothole. The prize incentive is gone, but 11 teams have been selected for what amounts to traditional grant funding. The contest is still on, but it's hard to see real competitive or entrepreneurial spirit thriving when some of the teams have such an advantage. It would be like trying to build a private rocket when the government funds space shuttles to compete against you. You'd be better off staying home and playing rocket (or Army car) video games. Also, in addition to the incentive of the prize, most of the prestige of winning comes from the high value of the prize. It's still a worthy goal, but from here it looks like the excitement is gone. Hopefully the prize gets revived later.