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Thursday, May 04, 2006
DARPA Grand Challenge 3

I would like to go on record here as saying that I would be interested in participating in, or forming, a team to compete in DARPA's "urban" Grand Challenge 3 (2 pages PDF). Instead of a course through the desert, this one is to be run through a mock city. It would seem that I was breed for this: My background as an engineer is in sensor and control systems. And I was brought up a car guy. Combine that with my organizational and sales skills - I think I'm a shoe-in.

Let's make no mistake: I have no intention of undertaking this as a hobby-shop project. Many of the entrants in the previous two Grand Challenges have been almost comically contrived shoestring affairs. I intend to make it my profession for the next eighteen months. This is to be approached as a coordinated, multi-disciplined development effort, with the added problem of fund-raising. Oh, and that $1 millon DARPA is offering is chump change, and likely not worth giving up "partial" rights. Anyone who's been involved in these sort of things knows a mil is a typical sort of budget for a factory to buy a major machine tool, or piece of processing equipment. Which is why we also need an attorney on board.

So much more to think about: my next step will be to review the actual PIP. The 10 mph standard seems like a cake-walk. But 10 mph in LA rush-hour traffic is good time; what are the exact parameters? The urban environment should be much easier than the desert of the past two challenges. But so much of this can be dealt with existing technology - GPS and collision avoidance - a major manufacturer tie-in would be helpful. All things in time.

This is just a feeler for interest. If you think you've got something to offer, please respond in comments or email.
Update: I've read the PIP, and a lot of my trepidations are settled. The requirements don't seem too daunting. Although I do have some questions about negotiating parking lots. More will be learned at the online conference on the 20th.
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A blog dedicated to the personal musings of Kevin L. Connors - a pragmatic libertarian, engineer, businessman, and journalist.

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