If there's one event we look forward to even more than the annual Robocup competition, it's DARPA's Grand Challenge, where teams from academia and corporate America butt heads to see whose autonomous vehicle can complete a previously-unknown course in the shortest amount of time. Since the 2004 Challenge ended in utter disaster (no one even came close to finishing the entire course, and most competitors barely made it past the starting line), DARPA ran the same race in 2005 with much better results: several teams succeeded in crossing the finish line, with Stanford's VW Touareg leading the pack and taking home the two million dollar bounty. Well DARPA must have figured that it had a great source of cheap R&D at its disposal with these Challenges, so this year will see a total of two events -- one up Pike's Peak (already completed) and an urban version of the original scheduled for November 3rd. To that end, the so-called Team A participants for the Urban Challenge have just been announced (including most of the usual suspects) -- these groups will get up to $1 million in development funds before the race even begins -- while the unfunded (and therefore dark horse) Team B applicants will be revealed on October 18th. Although we doubt that most of these competitors are in it for the money, a recent Congressional ruling now prohibits DARPA from offering up cash prizes, so instead, the top three teams this year will all take home shiny new...trophies. Team B wanna-bes have up until the 13th to submit their applications, but now that you know there's no riches or funding involved, you really gotta have a love of the game to participate -- unless those trophies happen to be 24-karat gold and studded with diamonds, that is, in which case they should fetch even more on eBay than Team Buffalo's losing Yamaha ATV from 2005. [Warning: PDF link]

[Via GoRobotics]

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