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No Cash Prize for Next DARPA Grand Challenge 107

Posted by Zonk
from the robots-lose dept.
General Lee's Peking writes to mention an Associated Press article about a sad development in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Because of some new DoD-related legislation, the organization will no longer be able to award the $2 Million prize to grand challenge winners. It's not all bad, though; they still get a trophy. From the article: "The absence of a lucrative cash prize has forced some teams to retool their game plan and others to drop out. Some fear it would be harder to attract corporate sponsors and hurt media coverage of the race, which drew a throng of reporters last year and inspired a PBS documentary. 'The icing on the cake is gone,' said Ivar Schoenmeyr, team leader of California-based Team CyberRider, which is retrofitting a Toyota Prius hybrid."
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No Cash Prize for Next DARPA Grand Challenge

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:24PM (#16519237) Homepage Journal

    So much for recovering my development expenses on these ideas:

    • Rocket-powered Army Jeep (for when you need to get out FAST!)
    • Submarine Desert Camo
    • Inflatable M*A*S*H nurse
    • Rumsfeld Magic 8 Ball
    • Linux Beowulf Cluster Bombs
    • Battlefield Mobile Starbucks
    • Solar Powered Night-Vision goggles
    • Water-proof Spy Satellite (good to 100m!)
    • Portable HUD Air Combat Training with Flash banner ads
    • Iraq Monopoly (also, expansion with Exit Strategy cards)
    • Armour-piercing stealth mosquito repellant

    note: Sharks with Lasers is someone else's idea so I clearly can't try to compete with that one.

    • [quote]Rocket-powered Army Jeep (for when you need to get out FAST!)[/quote]

      Or for soldiers who like to post lame stunt videos on the internet.
      • by ackthpt (218170) *

        [quote]Rocket-powered Army Jeep (for when you need to get out FAST!)[/quote]
        Or for soldiers who like to post lame stunt videos on the internet.

        I've only seen Royal Army humour videos on YouTube. I certain if I even tried to look I'd find dozens, nay, hundreds of others from US Forces.

        I left off a couple of recent developments..

        • 35mm Automatic Schmaltz cannon
        • Semi-automatic Ganja Ray ("SOLDIER, DO NOT POINT THAT WEAPON AT like, anyone, ok? chill, dude, no need to be, like pointing, it's totally rude
    • by finity (535067)
      "Battlefield Mobile Starbucks"

      Without coffee, I swear the Air Force would shut down. Coffee is the real black gold.
      • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @05:26PM (#16521927) Homepage Journal

        Without coffee, I swear the Air Force would shut down. Coffee is the real black gold.

        "OK private, we're all counting on you to get through the lines. We'll try to hold out as long as we can, but you know what we're up against. Now just to be sure you've got it right, repeat your objective."

        "Vente mocha soy for Johnson, latte triple shot for Malloy, grand house blend decaf for Morales, because he's trying to cut down, tall cafe' au lait for you, Sarge, iced espresso with whipped creme for Gooch and a double espresso for me."

        "Good lad, off you go!"

  • Stifling innovation- find out the Congress folks who pushed this legislation through and make sure their staff do a little "constituent services"
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:29PM (#16519333) Homepage Journal

      Stifling innovation- find out the Congress folks who pushed this legislation through and make sure their staff do a little "constituent services"

      Not sure exactly what you mean there, but the Defense budget is the largest it has been in ages, it's perplexing that they'd choose to cut here, unless there's some bizarre (well, not in light of the privatisation of many military services and operations) pressure to keep this in other hands, ahem, those which would prefer to sell goods and services they develop at great expense (and thus need reimbursement) and clearly some bunch of college yahoos couldn't do as well.

      • by El Cubano (631386) <roberto.connexer@com> on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:16PM (#16520069) Homepage

        Not sure exactly what you mean there, but the Defense budget is the largest it has been in ages, it's perplexing that they'd choose to cut here

        Two things:

        • Please do not look at absolute dollar values, they are nonsense. Look at defense spending as a percentage of GDP. The US defense budget is about the same size as it was during the isolationist period leading up to WWI. In terms of percentage, the US spends about 3.8% of its GDP on defense, putting it in the same area of the list as Tanzania.
        • Thanks to the neglect of the military under Clinton, the Air Force has ancient aircraft and can't maintain them all because they break so fast, the Navy has too few ships and many of those still in service have entire systems which are inoperable due to neglect, and the Army can no longer rely on unlimited overseas basing, unlimited Navy sealift and unlimited Air Force airlift and so must get rid of all their heavy artillery and heavy tanks to transform to a lighter force.

        That said, the US defense is the smallest it's been in ages and re-equipping three branches of the military is not cheap.

        • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @05:12PM (#16521703) Homepage Journal

          Please do not look at absolute dollar values, they are nonsense. Look at defense spending as a percentage of GDP. The US defense budget is about the same size as it was during the isolationist period leading up to WWI. In terms of percentage, the US spends about 3.8% of its GDP on defense, putting it in the same area of the list as Tanzania.

          Keep in mind that a significant percentage of defence support is now performed by private industry, thus increasing the overall budget and the Pentagon does not perform a considerable amount of services itself. it's said to be more efficient, but when the DoD performed its own services the money largely stayed within the department. Further, these large requests of 70 and 80 billion to support the war on terror, are they included in these figures?

          Thanks to the neglect of the military under Clinton, the Air Force has ancient aircraft and can't maintain them all because they break so fast, the Navy has too few ships and many of those still in service have entire systems which are inoperable due to neglect, and the Army can no longer rely on unlimited overseas basing, unlimited Navy sealift and unlimited Air Force airlift and so must get rid of all their heavy artillery and heavy tanks to transform to a lighter force.

          The Clinton administration hardly neglected the military. Clinton didn't actively seek out conflicts to expend material on, the largest being the Serbia/Bosnia conflict, which he brought NATO in to a significant degree (as it was most member states' own backyard this seems fair.) Clinton prefered diplomatic engagement, building support over unilateral moves. Clinton was more fiscally conservative than his successor.

          • I have to agree with you.

            Clinton was amazingly fiscally conservative.

            He was almost my dream of a succesful libertarian candidate.

            Totally fiscal conservative while totally liberal socially.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by couchslug (175151)
          The military has been neglected and mismanaged since the Reagan administration ended. He rescued us from the Hollow Force era, and the military has been living on the results for too long. I've been in the USAF since '81 and have not seen it this bad.
          It has been under continuous drawdown, procurement of new systems is not done with thought to economies of scale, and services like the Navy and AF are slashing personnel to pay for few and overpriced new systems.
          It is, provably, a bipartisan clusterfuck.
    • by Morphine007 (207082) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:33PM (#16519385)
      I'll give 10 to 1 odds that this is a result of some asshat policy maker (probably the one that spends all his time playing WoW) changing the rules without actually sitting down to think about the consequences of his shiny new policy... that kind of thing is a LOT more common than someone executing part of a far-reaching-conspiratorial-plan...
      • ... like when some aide lined out the entire Space Environment Center [noaa.gov] from NOAA's [noaa.gov] budget a few years ago -- after all, space is outside NOAA's bailiwick, so what are those goons doing? Turns out they're only ensuring the ongoing safety of the electrical grid and all of our comsats, phone systems, and aviation network... ... or like when, in 1998, I and a host of colleages traveled to the island of Guadeloupe to study a solar eclipse, and none of our colleagues from the Naval Research Laboratory had a place
    • by vertinox (846076)
      We'd have better luck if we just banded together and formed a Non-Profit organization that sole purpose was to award prizes to robotic contents.

      If everyone that reads Slashdot donated $10 to this organization, they'd have a great deal of money to award people.
  • by jo42 (227475) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:32PM (#16519379) Homepage
    The DoD could always offer other forms of remuneration to the winner. Such a awarding contracts for supplies, such as $500 toilet seats and $250 hammers...nyet?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) *

      The DoD could always offer other forms of remuneration to the winner. Such a awarding contracts for supplies, such as $500 toilet seats and $250 hammers...nyet?

      I could be wrong here, but don't think Stanford University is in the business of manufacturing toilet seats or hammers (though I dare say there's probably an ample supply of BFH's in the engineering school) The money awarded a university probably just goes into the general fund, where maybe the board would toss a bit of it as a reward (say, 10%)

      • by doormat (63648) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:43PM (#16519557) Homepage Journal
        I could be wrong here, but don't think Stanford University is in the business of manufacturing toilet seats or hammers

        I dont think you got it....

        1. Get awarded contract for 10,000 toilets at $500.
        2. Go purchase 10,000 toilets through distributor for $100 each.
        3. Profit!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by protolith (619345)
        Its easy, They said they would award a Trophy.

        If they pay $500 for a toilet seat and $250 for a hammer then a nice trophy would be like $2 million.

        They could award some kind of voucher to go pick the trophy the winning team wants.

        You wouldnt want them stuck with just any $2 million trophy. They should pick the one they want.

        I'm sure the government has some kind of voucher that would be good at any trophy shop.

        Yea maybe the Govt. bank will back the voucher so you know its good, call it a "Federal R
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ackthpt (218170) *

          Its easy, They said they would award a Trophy. If they pay $500 for a toilet seat and $250 for a hammer then a nice trophy would be like $2 million. They could award some kind of voucher to go pick the trophy the winning team wants. You wouldnt want them stuck with just any $2 million trophy. They should pick the one they want. I'm sure the government has some kind of voucher that would be good at any trophy shop. Yea maybe the Govt. bank will back the voucher so you know its good, call it a "Federal

        • Its easy, They said they would award a Trophy.

          Yeah. A big diamond encrusted trophy with rubies and sapphires as "accents." =)
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      Some of those things are myths. Some of them rest are rumored to be 'covers' for black ops spending. The remaining ones are specialized things, such as $500 toilet seats for long range bombers that are integreated into the pilot's seat.
      • Yeah, it is often said (and I thought it has been confirmed in a few places) that black-ops spending still has to clear congress so it gets slipped into inflated prices on normal goods. I think the completely ridiculous amounts are either people getting too cozy in their habits (you could easily write $100 or $150 for something like a tire that probobly only costs $50 but writing that much for a hammer is a little too noticable because even a really nice hammer wont cost that much).
      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        Some of those things are myths. Some of them rest are rumored to be 'covers' for black ops spending. The remaining ones are specialized things, such as $500 toilet seats for long range bombers that are integreated into the pilot's seat.

        Indeed, nearly every one of those much-trumpeted examples of defense waste are not, in fact, nearly as stupid as people would like to think. The one you mention is a good example of how dumbasses read line items like "toilet seat" and automatically assume it's the same as th

  • by 7Prime (871679) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:35PM (#16519413) Homepage Journal

    Solid Snake's gonna be VERY disappointed...

    ...wait, what DARPA were we talking about, again?

  • by Tx (96709)
    A competition where the prize is $0! What a brilliant idea! Much cheaper to run than a regular competition! I'm amazed someone didn't think of that before.
    • by garcia (6573)
      A competition where the prize is $0! What a brilliant idea! Much cheaper to run than a regular competition! I'm amazed someone didn't think of that before.

      At least, for once, development of military ideas won't cost taxpayers a dime! :roll:
    • by Tablizer (95088)
      A competition where the prize is $0! What a brilliant idea!

      Maybe this is a secret plan to get RMS to enter.
           
  • Why can't I order that at my local Chinese restaurant?
  • by bryz (730558) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:39PM (#16519483) Homepage
    Step 1. Buy Lexus LS460 with autopark
    Step 2. Put ls460 backwards at starting line, tell it to park at finish line.
    Step 3. Profit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:39PM (#16519495)
    The big defense contractors feel embarased by the successes of university teams in the last one; so they change the rules to make it less attractive to amateurs.


    Business as usual for the military industry.

  • What if... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@@@yahoo...ca> on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:40PM (#16519499)
    What if they don't need the contest anymore? Last year's winner did amazingly well from what I remember. What if they already have what they want?
    • by eclarkso (179502)

      The article is informative:

      Unlike previous races where robotic vehicles had to conquer the rugged desert, next year's challenge will test how well they can carry out a mock military supply mission through bottlenecked traffic.
      The goal for this challenge is considerably different.
  • What!!!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    A government program is working and inexpensive? It must be stopped!!!!!!!
  • "Hey, you know that amazing technology that we want you guys to build for us? Do you think you could do that for free instead?"
  • by zymurgy_cat (627260) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:55PM (#16519733) Homepage
    It sounds like it's just a bureaucratic (sp?) paperwork shuffle. The money will be available. And if not, I'm sure they can find a few congressmen/women to either put pressure on the DoD or write a bill to specifically authorize the money. No one wants to look either "soft on terror" or "unconcerned about troop safety", so this will all work out. Hell, I'm sure Bush, as CIC, can move the money if needed.
    • by trosenbl (191401)

      It sounds like it's just a bureaucratic (sp?) paperwork shuffle. The money will be available. And if not, I'm sure they can find a few congressmen/women to either put pressure on the DoD or write a bill to specifically authorize the money. No one wants to look either "soft on terror" or "unconcerned about troop safety", so this will all work out. Hell, I'm sure Bush, as CIC, can move the money if needed.

      This is what I suspect. Especially since this is a great marketing vehicle (ba-dum!) for Science educatio

  • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geccie (730389) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:55PM (#16519737)
    RTFA - Although DARPA has pulled the award, the current legislation does not bar awards. It moves the authorization level up one position above the DARPA director.

    All they now have to do is get permission from their boss.

    It appears they have chosen the ignorant route and - instead of getting requested authorization - simply claim they are not allowed

    Sounds like typical Government Bureaucrats to me.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      There is nobody in DARPA higher than the director, so "One position above the DARPA director" means "not DARPA." The Director of Defense Engineering and Research concievably could, but when have they? Do you have a boss? When they say, "X is now my decision, not yours," do you take that to mean that your boss will decide however you want if you ask nicely?

      It was DARPA's idea. DARPA's annual budget is $3e9 [darpa.mil] (check out the 7th page), and the few million they spent on the Grand Challenges was IME some of

      • by newt0311 (973957)
        politics. like an earlier post said, "a government program works so it must be stopped." When a gov. prog succeeds, it makes the rest of the gov. look bad. therefore, it must be trashed.
  • Just get corporate sponsorship for the prize. The purse could actually become a lot larger... I would think the big guys would kill to have their names splashed around on all the videos of the contest.
    • by PPH (736903)
      Or maybe al Qaida can put up the reward cash. They need an autonomously guided vehicle that they can send to a pre-programmed destination.
  • The Netflix Prize, originally scheduled to run for 5 years, has within one month already achieved nearly half of its goal of 10% improvement on their flagship technology, Cinematch [netflixprize.com] -- and so what does DARPA do?

    Abandon technology prizes.

    They are insane.

  • The Real Harm (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadicpuma (809691) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:32PM (#16520255)
    I'm on the Princeton DARPA team, and we're on Track B. The prize money at the end was a nice incentive and certainly garnered attention for the competition, but that's not where the real harm lies. For passing the site visit, there was a prize of $50,000, and for making it to the finals, a $250,000 prize (don't quote me on the amounts, that's just my recollection). These milestone prizes would've gone a long way to offset the financial disparity between Track A teams (who've received substantial DARPA grants) and the Track B teams. We're on a shoestring budget, and that money would've been incredibly useful. Instead, we now have to go the entire distance without a dime from the government.

    ------
    http://pave.princeton.edu/ [princeton.edu]
    • by sethstorm (512897) *

      Well, ask your well-heeled and well connected alumni to cough up some cash - I'm sure that exclusivity(or what you want to call "competitive admissions") can come up with the difference and then some.
  • No New Taxes (Score:1, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    "some new DoD-related legislation"

    We can't spend $2M on DARPA, which gives us results like the Internet, GPS, etc. We've got to spend it on 12 minutes in Iraq [speakupwny.com].
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      Moderation 0
      50% Interesting
      50% Troll

      Congress is split about that evenly, barely favoring the TrollMods, which is one reason why we're getting so many 12 minutes in Iraq, and no DARPA Grand Challenge prizes.

      In a few weeks, you'll get a chance (if you're an American voter) to pick your representative in the House, and probably your Senator, too. Decide whether they agree with your preference for DARPA or Iraq. Vote Tuesday, November 7 2006. You'll be stuck with the re
  • Call up Bangalore U. That's where the DoD contractors are investing money.
  • For a trivial investment they were getting huge benefits.

    Yet they'll continue wasting money hand over fist for way less return elsewhere in government.
  • President Bush you !
  • by Sinical (14215) on Friday October 20, 2006 @10:49PM (#16525121)

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/C?c109:./temp/ ~c109i6ly2s [loc.gov]

    Signed on October 17th. Look in Section 212, which has this:

    (A) by striking `Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency' and inserting `Director of Defense Research and Engineering and the service acquisition executive for each military department'; and

    Emphasis mine. You can see that now they have to add a dude (assuming that Director of Defense of DARPA is now "Director of Defense Research and Engineering", otherwise it's out of DARPA's hands all together). Maybe it's just a matter of signatures, but I can see how they have been forced to put the award on hold until they can, you know, obey the law as Congress has fiddled with it. And I confess that I haven't looked at the legislation that this section amends, which is:

    Subsection (a) of section 2374a of title 10, United States Code

  • The leading teams this time are Stanford/Volkswagen, CMU/General Motors, and Oshkosh Truck. The prize doesn't matter to either. And all three already got $1 million in Government money. Each.

    It's a much tougher job this time. Driving in traffic, backing out of tight spots, parking and unparking. I'll be surprised if anyone wins the first year, because nobody knows quite what to expect. Year two, someone will win.

  • by SRA8 (859587)
    I dont understand how Haliburton and Kellog, Brown & Root can walk away will billions or logistical work while true research and hard work by our next generation of scientists isnt worth $2m?
  • Companies can spend BILLIONS buying all of the congress and whitehouse, but allow DARPA to spend a million to get something done, well.....
  • Well if they aren't funding a Grand challenge its because they are funding the URBAN challenge. Instead of driving around a desert, we are supposed to drive around an "urban landscape" and be able to pass cars, follow california traffic laws etc. Another big change is that they are funding university teams in-ADVANCE! Our team got $1Million straight up, so we can buy a new car and all the electronics and sensors we need to make the best system possible. Since we are all students, the system we build IS

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