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No Cash Prize for Next DARPA Grand Challenge 107

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 kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:54PM (#16519727)
    $25M for first family car that gets over 100 mpg at $40,000 price

    To be awarded posthumously?

    It's easy enough to build such a car. Easy enough that it's been done many times over the past century.

    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.

  • 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 geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:58PM (#16519777) Homepage
    Oddly enough, the President doesn't get to decide exactly what obscure sections go into a defense spending law. If he did, you can bet that companies located in districts represented by Congressmen on the appropriations committee wouldn't just happen to get lots of big contracts.

    Sure, you can maybe blame him for not vetoing the spending bill, but unless he really cared about this one expenditure, why would you expect him to?

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take a long shower, because I fell really dirty after actually defending the President. But can you please save your blame of him for the tons of things that are actually his fault?
  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:16PM (#16520069)

    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.

  • 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]
  • No New Taxes (Score:1, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:50PM (#16520497) Homepage Journal
    "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].
  • Re:Posthumously? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:07PM (#16520709)
    Why in the world would you say that? You're not one of those people that thinks bigger necessarily equals safer, are you?

    No. You'll find in my other posts that I am one of those people that thinks, small, light, uncrushable carbon fiber cars are safer ( with suitable crushables, say light foam, around the carbon fiber).

    If you go back and read my post again I think you'll find that I'm one of those people that thinks the designer of the 100 mpg car has already died of old age. Hence the posthumous award.

    . . .what exactly would you have to give up? The ability to accelerate quickly?

    Unless you give up enough mass. There are limits to that. See the "beer can effect" in reducing bicycle weight by using thinner, larger diameter tubing. And of course mass will always be proportional to size, no matter the materials and construction techniques you use, so yes, size is one of the things you might have to give up to increase milage, which at least as important as reducing mass reduces frontal area.

    The ability to decelerate quickly?

    Throwing energy away is always comparitively easy. Any modern street car can be braked in excess of its ability to produce tractive force on clean, dry roads. Small, light cars with high tractive force can decelerate from 100 mph to 0 in less than two seconds with off the shelf (albeit expensive) parts.

    But I'm not sure what this has to do with gas milage in street cars.

    I have an MS in Astrophysics. . .

    Astrophysics has always been an interest of mine, but even as an undergrad my research always focused on . . .high efficiency vehicles. Partly because of my love of human power, party because I was an undergrad during the OPEC oil crises in the 70s.

    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.

    Right, so you'll have to give up accelerating quickly. See my other post where I mention getting 60 mpg out of a box stock Fiesta.

    Forgive me for saying so, but it's not rocket science.

    I've done some work on rockets. I have a number of friends at NASA and its subcontractors. You're right, automotive engineering isn't rocket science. It's far more complicated.

    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?

    My vehicle doesn't need a license plate and I typically run it on rice and lentils; with a few bananas and a handful of trail mix on the side. Oh, and Day Lilies when they're in season. I've "given up" a lot, but I've gained the world.

    It can by hybridized to increase peak accelerations, but I'm not usually in that much of a hurry. To get the best milage all you really need to give up is your ridiculous schedule.

  • 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

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