Grand Challenge Results

Posted 14 Mar 2004 at 21:52 UTC by steve Share This

Everyone has heard by now that none of the robots completed DARPA's Grand Challenge yesterday. With the backing of major corporations like Intel and Boeing, more than 3 million dollars and expert assistance from the CMU Robotics Lab, the Red Team's robot managed 7 miles of the 142 mile course before getting stuck on a rock and spinning the tires until the rubber caught fire. Much smaller teams with less funding like the Golum Group and Team DAD did just as well. Stories with details of who crashed and how can be found in the Mercury News, CNN, the Las Vegas Review Journal, and plenty of others. Photos can be found on Yahoo!, DARPA Media Gallery and elsewhere. And the Register has a good story on Team Phantasm's experiences.

DARPA Document on Robot Fates, posted 14 Mar 2004 at 23:12 UTC by steve » (Master)

Here's the only official document I could find detailing what exactly happened to each robot. Careful, though, it's in a proprietary Microsoft format, so get those virus scanners fired up. ;-)

Not entirely unexpected results, posted 15 Mar 2004 at 02:15 UTC by WhoPhlungPoo » (Journeyer)

First off, if it where such an easy task then DARPA wouldnt have held the competition with such a large reward for the winner; maybe next year they will allow the rest of us to participate rather than turning away 3/4 of the entrants several months before the competition.

Participation, posted 15 Mar 2004 at 02:38 UTC by steve » (Master)

Yes, what I'd like to see more than details about how the 15 robots died is a more detailed explanation of why each of the other teams were disallowed from participation at all. Just getting an entry to the starting line is a Grand Challenge in itself!

Participation, posted 15 Mar 2004 at 18:51 UTC by while_true » (Observer)

The failure of so many teams to even get past the first 200 yards proved that DARPA was right not to include many contestants that didn't have an ice-cube's chance in hell of making it.

Just because they didn't disclose their rubric, doesn't mean their pruning of contestants was random.

I personally think the next step should be to give a generous operating budget (say $10 million) to each team that made it close to a mile. The point is that the capabilities of hobbyist with day jobs are limited. Let them quit their day jobs.

For $13 million in costs for this event, they got 7 miles from 2 teams. For $70 million, they might have the problem solved. Note that this is still FAR cheaper than an average budget for a new vehicle, in contracts to large defense firms.

Say what?, posted 16 Mar 2004 at 00:31 UTC by WhoPhlungPoo » (Journeyer)


The spirit of the competition was originally intended to give everyone interested in participation a chance; ABSOLUTELY NO ONE should have been excluded from this event; regardless of weather or not you or anyone within the DARPA organization felt they didn't have a chance; they should have at bare minimum been allowed to go to the qualifying event. Instead of changing the qualifying rules at the last minute so they could actually hold the race with more than two participants; they could have stuck with the original plan and let the qualifying event weed out the entrants that didnt muster up; there are a lot of creative people interested in doing something like this, just because they aren't associated with a prestigious school like CMU or similar group doesnt mean they don't have a chance. Remember those two bicycle mechanics that kicked off the entire powered flight industry? Creativity can not be learned, purchased or validated by a college degree; you're either born with it or you're not................................

say this..., posted 16 Mar 2004 at 01:35 UTC by while_true » (Observer)

Interesting reply, but keep in mind:

1) The rules weren't changed during the QID to allow the other contenders in. There was never a stipulation that passing the QID was required to enter the race. Correct me if I am wrong here.

2) There is nothing stopping a anyone from going to the desert right now and repeating the race along the same way-points. If you think you can do it, go ahead and try. If you succeed, there will be at least a dozen groups interested in buying your technology, which is worth well over $1M, and everyone knows it. Hell, I'll give you a million dollars to own any successful technology, because I can turn around and sell it or use it for higher profit.

3) CMU is privileged because of a long record of excellent work. The Red Team got the money because of what they have done in the past, which is perfectly valid to me. Why would anyone invest in a group that has done little in comparison? They certainly couldn't work nearly as hard as I've seen the Red Team work. But that isn't even enough. The course beat everyone. The problem is a fundamental lacking in the state of the art. High speed dynamics, amazingly accurate maps, and robust stabilization are all new technologies that CMU has developed. But there needs to be more.

4) You can't view the race independent from our entrepreneurial free market system and the nature of government defense spending. Clearly both will reward success and should be motivators by themselves. Saying this race is unfair ignore the existing infrastructure which supports innovation at whatever level gets the job done. It would seem that at this point, university and corporate research are what get the job done. Maybe some folks on can change that. As someone who will enter the small, growing business mentality of an entrepreneur very soon, I certainly hope this is the case.

Nepotism or Free Market?, posted 16 Mar 2004 at 02:49 UTC by WhoPhlungPoo » (Journeyer)

1) The rules where in fact changed to allow entrants to compete that would not have made it through the QID.


2) I cant speak for everyone, however, the prize money and or possible contracts resulting from a successful run have absolutely no bearing; it's the thrill of competing, taking part in the event. I would be just as enthusiastic about taking part in the event if the reward for wining was a trophy and a handshake.

3) My comments where NOT intended to detract from the effort put forward by any of the contestants, especially CMU. I have a lot of respect for CMU, the students, the facility and everyone else involved; the point I was trying to make is simple, this problem can not be resolved by simply throwing money at it; DARPA understands this, hence the Grand Challenge.

4) Your fourth statement is contradictory, how can you have a "FREE MARKET" situation when teams are pre excluded from the competition. In what way do you consider what took place with this event entrepreneurial? From an outside in perspective this event appeared to be more closely related to nepotism than a free market.

Carification, posted 16 Mar 2004 at 09:50 UTC by Balthaser » (Apprentice)

I doubt u have to tell people about your technology just because u won that 1 million dollars right.

How you want to tell people of your secrets is up to you. you'll be under some pressure but i dont think u have to tell them everything...

What some of you need to remember..., posted 17 Mar 2004 at 01:07 UTC by Timster » (Master)

is that even if the vehicles crapped out in the first mile they still had to:

a)start and move b)navigate several twists and turns c)control their speed to do so

all of those being significan hurdles when kludging together automechanical, computer and sensor technologies. It also shows that it can be done... not well yet, but it can be done, which is important in itself. Since it WAS done by teams of all financial backgrounds using different strategies.

re: Nepotism or Free Market?, posted 17 Mar 2004 at 22:11 UTC by while_true » (Observer)

1) Changing the rules made little difference in the end. How many bots made it 300 yards which didn't pass the QID. Allowing folks to compete that didn't pass through a presumably less stringent initially pruning would just mean a lot more failures at the starting line.

2) If the race isn't about money, then what is stopping people from competing independent of the race? This is a debate about whether the initial pruning was right or wrong, correct? If people aren't competing for the prize money, then feel free to continue working, and I'll shake your hand if/when you win and give you a paper-weight.

3) I believe in challenges like this, especially when you consider how much work was done for the cost. BUT, there are limits on collective good will efforts. Someone needs to pay the rent, and it should be DARPA if you are working on their project full time. Put another way, as in my original point, DARPA support would ALLOW people to work full time.

4) There is no contradiction. I am talking about 3 systems. 1-free markets. 2-government funding. 3-government prizes for challenges.

All three will reward success, which is why our modern age has seen such amazing amounts of progress. This is like any system of research. A university does not accept every person that applies, and lets them all have a chance at success. A university accepts those that seem to be capable of something good, given a threshold, and goes from there. It isn't nepotism to limit the contestant field, it's just pragmatic.

BUT, I don't think it would have made that great of a difference either way, really, as I mentioned above. It WOULD have made the live satellite feed MUCH more interesting to see more bots fail :)

if you can't play by the rules..., posted 18 Mar 2004 at 00:26 UTC by aplumb » (Journeyer)

...change them!

Lots of ways of interpreting that cliche, however the one I have in mind is as follows.

If you couldn't enter because they limited the entries (or in my case because I'm one of those dangerous Canadian foreigners ;-), build yourself a 'bot that can successfully navigate the course in the alloted time (and recognize endangered wildlife in the process). Once you've done so, and your success has been well and officially documented, don't settle for anything less than a $2M reward!

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