[EAS] Robot Race Flops

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Mon Mar 15 17:32:41 EST 2004

Subject:   Robot Race Flops

(from NewsScan Daily, 15 March 2004)

   The highly touted robot race staged by the Pentagon in an effort
to boost R&D in driverless vehicles has ended with all 15
self-navigating  devices petering out within a few miles of the
starting gate -- victims of technical glitches, barbed wire fences
and rough terrain. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency had
spent $13 million on its Grand Challenge, which offered a $1 million
prize to the creators of the vehicle that could complete a 150-mile
race across the Mojave Desert within 10 hours. Team members were not
allowed to touch or steer the vehicles and  most of the robots
stalled, overturned or ran off the course shortly after taking off.
Defense officials foresee using such autonomous robotic vehicles to
ferry supplies in war zones. (AP 15 Mar 2004)

Given the success of unmanned (piloted by remote control) aircraft for
war time surveillance and more, I'm surprised that an application for
ferrying supplies in war zones wasn't envisioned in similar terms.
Maybe that's already happening. Autonomy in messy circumstances is
hugely challenging and a questionable goal. Klaatu barada nikto. --PJK

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