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Crash test dummies get date for DARPA Robot Run II

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DARPA has set a late 2005 date for the second running of its Grand Challenge robot race. Well over a hundred contestants are expected to give Grand Challenge II a go on Oct. 8 of next year. The event, like the first run this year, pits robot vehicles in a race across the Mojave Desert, forcing the vehicles to see and steer with no human intervention. DARPA - the oddest arm of the Defense Department - has upped the prize money for the second race to $2m, as reported earlier here.

"This event is a challenge for American ingenuity,"said Anthony Tether, director of DARPA, in a statement. "It brings together individuals and organizations from the research and development community, industry, Government, the Armed Services, academia, professional societies, and from the ranks of students, backyard inventors, and automotive enthusiasts."

The race proved too grand for competitors this March when only a handful of robot vehicles were able to travel more than a few of the 200 miles in the course. Some of the vehicles crashed into walls, one was tripped up on barbed wire and another fell victim to a boulder. The Grand Challenge was plagued by a host of pre-race problems as well, including DARPA's inability to deal with the quantity of entrants. The organization also made a series of last minute rule changes - a policy that displeased several competitors.

DARPA has hopefully worked out these kinks for next year's event.

A revamped Grand Challenge web site has been put up, but it lacks details such as the exact course data and timetables for submitting vehicle proposals. Notes posted on the site say DARPA will provide the information over the course of the year. DARPA plans to lead a conference on the event in Anaheim on Aug. 14.

The major thrust behind the event is to create systems capable of recusing troops or hunting for enemies on their own. There's that whole killing people thing going on as well. The US government has called for one-third of all military vehicles to operate unmanned by 2015. ®

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