As reported in an earlier blog post, the 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge was in danger of losing the prize incentive that helped the original DARPA Grand Challenge succeed. The Challenge was still on, and in fact a number of contestant teams got grant money to enable them to mount serious development efforts, but the incentive to win for both the grantees and the other contestants was reduced to bragging rights and a trophy. For such a well-respected and publicized prize these incentives are significant, especially for an organization like a university where reputation counts in many ways, but a cash prize makes things interesting and competitive on a whole different level.
As it turns out, the DARPA Grand Challenge cash prize is back! Here is a DARPA news release that explains this turn of events. Out of the teams that meet the challenge (assuming there are any), the top teams will win $2 million, $1 million, and $500,000. That should give a lot of motivation for the contestants.