October 03, 2005
Robot racing gets under way
It's the ultimate robot reality show: 43 contestants battling for a spot in a government-sponsored desert race intended to speed development of unmanned military combat vehicles.
The reward? A $2 million cash prize.
The autonomous robotic vehicles began competing Wednesday in the first of a series of qualifying rounds at the California Speedway. Half will advance to the October 8 starting line of the so-called Grand Challenge.
The grueling, weeklong semifinals are designed to test the vehicles' ability to cover a roughly 2-mile stretch of the track without a human driver or remote control.
Participants ranging from souped-up SUVs to military behemoths will be graded on how well they can self-drive on rough road, make sharp turns and avoid obstacles -- hay bales, trash cans, wrecked cars -- while relying on GPS navigation and sensors, radar, lasers and cameras that feed information to computers.
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Now if this were a college-student deal, the entrants (or at least some of them) would also try to incapacitate their competitors, strewing tacks or oil slicks or bombs behind them, extruding James-Bond swords from their hubcaps, swerving madly to damage other vehicles, throwing out entangling chains sideways (or flames, for that matter) and so on. It would be a scene of mechanical carnage, with perhaps no one even getting to the finish line.
There must be rules against this.
Posted by: judith | Oct 3, 2005 12:20:30 PM
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