The DARPA Grand Challenge
With a Congressional mandate to replace one third of all U.S. ground troops with automated vehicles by 2015, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) offered the U.S. robotics industry a challenge with a one million dollar prize: create a fully autonomous robotic vehicle that could navigate itself through 250 miles of desert wilderness. The team whose vehicle completed the course the fastest would claim the prize.
The “Grand Challenge,” spearheaded by DARPA’s Colonel Jose Negron, was held in the Mojave Desert in March, 2004 between Barstow, CA and Primm, NV. Some of the brightest minds in the country from academia, the military and the private sector participated. Ultimately, no vehicle was able to complete the difficult race, although Carnegie Mellon University’s modified Hummer, “Sandstorm,” ran the fastest and longest–just over seven miles.
Pacific Voice followed eight teams as they developed their vehicles through race day for a 90 minute prime time NHK documentary which captured the highest ratings of the year for a science based program