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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 eaglej ( 552473 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:43PM (#16519563)
    Yes. The money which is no longer available was prize money, as well as milestone prizes for the track B teams. The difference between track A and track B is that track A gives all its technology to the government at the end (in exchange for $1 million of development money), and track B has no such obligation. The track A funds (contracts rather than prizes) are still fully intact, so all of the track A teams are still in it. What's been cut out is the incentive for track B teams to enter. These are the teams that are NOT giving technology directly to the government, and are using the race as a vehicle for development of technology that can truly benefit the world in ways other than making robot death jeeps. Say, for example, saving hundreds of thousands of lives in traffic accidents every year.

    So yes, I would much rather see a portion of the DoD's budget spent encouraging development of revolutionary safety technology for civilian drivers rather than a big contract to a traditional defense contractor for something that directly kills people. (Keep in mind, the funds were not -cut-, DARPA's authority to use them for prizes was simply removed.)
  • by agingell ( 931397 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @02:49PM (#16519645) Homepage
    Interesting enough VW have already done it, see: s_its.html []
    The VW Lupo is available but it only does 78.4mpg(US). Their development car did much better: 0.89 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres (264 mpg) top speed was still 75mph. but they could not make the commercial version cheaper than $25K
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:00PM (#16519809)
    While I think your point is valid, I do think that the prize money added to the overall prestige of the competition, which was a motivating factor for many to enter.

    Also, it seemed that the top winners actually spent more to win the competition than what they received in prize money. Not saying that the prize money didn't help to recoup costs though. It could have this positive effect in that if someone doesn't win they won't see it as a crushing blow to their finances.
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:32PM (#16520259)
    Just using today's technology, you could probably get pretty close to 100 mpg with a Prius

    I could achieve it with a Chevette using yesterday's technolgy. Hell, I got 60 mpg out of a box stock 1976 Fiesta, in traffic, once upon a time, as a demonstration of how much driving style effects gas milage (the Prius is not immune from this effect. Some of its reported efficiency comes from the fact that its drivers are preselected to focus on economy in their driving). I'll give you 3000 mpg gallon with yesterday's technology; if you're willing to give up enough for it. With real mpg figures, not some conversion of mppc (miles per pound of coal) into mpg.

    If we're going allow conversion factors I could also build you a car that gets the equivilent of 3000 mpg, burns a wide variety of bio or synthetic fuels at the same time and costs only a few thousand dollars, but you'd have to give up far too much for most people to bear.

    Chiefly their lack of physical fitness.

  • by rhyre417 ( 919946 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:31PM (#16521051)
    The prize money is kind of like a lottery drawing, except that it's based on knowledge and skill, not so much on luck. It attracts teams who will enter despite the fact that there may be better returns on their investments of time and creativity.
    The cash price would generate far more media attention than a simple awards ceremony. If we want to encourage people to invest in science and technology, this is a good way to do it.

    It was non-sensical to kill it.

    I'll make a public committment of $200 towards a future Darpa Grand Challenge prize, if 10,000 other people will do the same. (I'll leave it as an exercise to Slashdotters to figure out the best way to use pledgebank along with a credible escrow system to accomplish this.)
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @05:52PM (#16522265)
    However, if your concern is that you want the *ability* to accelerate quickly - e.g., in an emergency - then you can still get your 100 mpg.

    Right, if you give up that accelerating most of the time. That's something to give up. Some people won't. It's what they primarily want out of a motor vehicle. There are also still tradeoffs to be made, since an engine that isn't capable of that sort of acceleration can be made smaller and lighter, but then we're getting into the 3000 mpg territory I was talking about and not a mere 100.

    Various efficiencies of the power plant my also vary with speed and acceleration. That's why our cars don't all just have gas turbines in them. They tried 'em in road racing and they sucked. They tried 'em in oval racing and they were so good they were banned (there were market politics involved in this. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday . . .if you're racing something that can be related to what you're selling).

    Oval racers don't do much in the way of sudden accelerating.

    And, yes, of course, you can't have an unaerodynamic car or a ridiculously massive car and still get 100 mpg. However, I don't see that there's anything unrealistic that you have to sacrifice.

    The realism of the sacrifice is an issue I did not address. I simply stated that to get one thing you will have to give up some other thing. I'm often chided on this very forum for suggesting "sacrifices" that are "unrealistic;" and yet I obviously think they are realsitic, because I have really made them.

    I really can't tell if you're being sarcastic here or not.

    Q.E.D. Ha, ha, I'm only being serious.

    The first phrase makes sense, but you seem to be implying that the only way to get 100 mpg is to go really, really slow.

    No, I was primarily making a social commentary, but I am implying that the slower you go the better the milage you can get. Taken to its logical extreme you will get the best "milage" by simply being content with where you already are. This applies to human power just as well as mechanical power.

    However, as I said, I can make a Chevette that gets 100 mpg, while only using technology that was available at the time it was made, but the higher you want its potential performance the more you'll have to give up in milage. I'm not working with a clean slate with that one. For starters I have a given power plant with certain built in inefficienes.

    The second quickest, cheapest way to increase its milage is to shed mass, but you'll have to give up passenger carrying capacity for that. The next is to reduce rolling resistence, but you'll have to give up tractive force for that. The next is to change the final drive ratio, but you'll have to give up acceleration for that. The next is to tune the engine for maximum efficiency, but again you will have to give up some acceleration for that as well. It's innate in the device. I could be on to certain aerodynamic changes, but you may have to give up "styling" for that (Hey, it's not exatly my favorite, but I don't actually object to the way a Chevette looks).

    Of course the cheapest way to increase milage (irrespective of a specific target) is to simply teach you how to drive it. With gentle, unhurried patience.

    Depending on local conditions this may, however, result in your getting to work at a slower average speed. It might well take as much as . . . a couple minutes longer.

    On the other hand I might well beat your Porsche on my bicycle. The world is a mass of variables and one of the essential problems with designing a road vechicle is that you have to take them all into account.

    For years Jaguar battled American complaints that their cars overheated. They couldn't understand it, because they kept improving the cooling system year on year, but the complaints kept coming.

    So, one year, they actually sent some of the engineers to America, go figure. Their reaction?

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @09:24PM (#16524531)
    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.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle