DARPA has chosen 36 finalists for its Urban Challenge, a close-in city version of its "grand challenge" for robotic car designers, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The defense agency isn't quite ready to unleash robocars on a real city; this contest will take place at a former Air Force base in Victorville, Calif. Among the semifinalists scheduled to start competing Oct. 26 are defending champs the Stanford Racing Team.
DARPA plans to winnow the 36 semifinalists to about 20 teams that will get a chance to compete Nov. 3. On that day, the robo-cars will be challenged to drive 60 miles over a city-like environment, complete with moving obstacles - presumably both cars and pedestrians - in less than six hours.
"The vehicles must perform as well as someone with a California driver's license," DARPA Director Anthony Tether said.
First place this time around: $2 million. The second and third prizes are $1 million and $500,000, respectively.
Tether announced the winners at DARPATech, where DARPA official Preston Marshall said present-day defense tech has finally outpaced what Gene Roddenberry imagined for Star Trek.
Most people think of 'Star Trek' as future technology. We strive to leave 'Star Trek' far behind.