The DARPA Grand Challenge is a government-sponsored competition to see if robotic vehicles can successfully navigate a great distance (approximately 150 miles) without human intervention. The race course includes obstacles such as tunnels, ditches, and berms. The initial prize was $1 million, with each successive race worth more until someone wins.
The first race in March 2004 was a fiasco, with the best entry covering only 7 miles of the 142-mile course. This year’s race, however, saw five vehicles complete the 131-mile course, with Stanford University winning the $2 million prize. This increase in performance over a mere 19 months is pretty impressive and bodes well for the future of robotic intelligence.