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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 @02:29PM (#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 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...
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:36PM (#16519439) Homepage Journal

    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%) to the engineering school as a big 'Thank ya'. Awarding Stanford 40,000 toilet seats would be, um, ignominious, though fitting for the way the football team has performed so far.

  • 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] [at] [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?
  • What!!!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:44PM (#16519583)
    A government program is working and inexpensive? It must be stopped!!!!!!!
  • by Morphine007 (207082) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:54PM (#16519711)

    I should have been more specific: by "asshat policy maker" not thinking about the consequences of "his shiny new policy", I should've said "the shiny new policy they just wrote".

    El Presidente may have signed it... but you can be damned sure he didn't actually write the thing. Someone else did, and then they managed to asskiss enough politicians to get 5 minutes of his time, during which, he likely signed a policy that, as a whole, had very little to do with the DARPA prize, but probably contained some obscure fucking clause...that some nimby-pimby shit for brains managed to... .. . . . . I'ma stop now... I'm feeling a little stabby....

  • 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.
  • Re:Great Idea! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lottameez (816335) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:58PM (#16519779)
    That's already been done. It's called "Open Source".
  • by danpsmith (922127) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:01PM (#16519827)
    All you have to do to achieve it is give up something else. We can strive for efficiency, but we canna change the laws of physics.

    Give up? What are these laws you talk of, I don't know about you, but I'm American: I give up nothing and I write my own damned laws!

  • Posthumously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by benhocking (724439) <<benjaminhocking> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:15PM (#16520055) Homepage Journal
    To be awarded posthumously?

    Why in the world would you say that? You're not one of those people that thinks bigger necessarily equals safer, are you?

    All you have to do to achieve it is give up something else. We can strive for efficiency, but we canna change the laws of physics.

    Sure, you might have to give up the ability to, um, I don't know. Help me out here - what exactly would you have to give up? The ability to accelerate quickly? Nope. The ability to decelerate quickly? Nope. What would you have to give up? Which "laws of physics" would one have to change? (I have an MS in Astrophysics, so don't feel that you have to speak to the layman.)

    I will say this - when you're accelerating quickly you won't be getting your 100 mpg. But you can have the ability to accelerate quickly (say in an emergency) and still average 100 mpg. Forgive me for saying so, but it's not rocket science. :)

    OK, so maybe you'll have to give up your "8 MPG" license plate (I actually saw one of these), but really, is that asking so much?

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:32PM (#16521067) Homepage Journal

    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 Reserve Note" or something like that. 2 million of those ought to do.

    I'm rather certain if it worked at all like that it would go something like this:

    The award, manufactured by Haliburton Defence Award Company, is to be distributed by Kellog, Brown and Root Trophy Transportation, Logistics & Presentation Division to the recipient, Total Cost $2.7 million for a gold plated plastic chalice atop a particle wood (coated in simulated dark mahogany) stand.

    You have to think about how the game is played these days.

  • 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.

  • Re:No Cash Prize? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SnowZero (92219) on Friday October 20, 2006 @05:22PM (#16521857)
    Your hate blinds you, and works to the advantage to the very policies you despise. Repeat after me: Congress writes the laws; Congress controls the money; The Executive implements the laws. If you don't like laws with bad portions tacked on, blame Congress, not the president, who has no line-item veto (thank Congress for that one too). This is doubly true for anything spending related, as that is Congress' job with its "power of the purse". If you want to change things, fight the battle where it matters, in the congressional elections. Far too many people focus only on the presidential election, losing sight of the true seat of power in our government. The best way a presidental election can be helpful is by electing from the opposite party as the majority in Congress (i.e. voting for gridlock). What you can't expect, however, is a president to veto crappy laws from his own party. Don't blame the messenger.

    Think of Clinton in his first two years (Clipper chip, anyone?), versus his last six. When did he do better? Look at who was the majority in Congress during those periods. Educating, isn't it? In other words, a president is at his best when he is a brake on the stupidity of Congress. Of course, for an issue like this, even Clinton/Gore/Kerry are not going to veto some enormous spending bill for some obscure and relatively minor addition. For that kind of thing, you can only blame the ones who created it, which is Congress. That is where you should fight your battle.

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