March 13, 2004 will go down as one of the most significant dates in technological history – the first running of the DARPA Grand Challenge. As in the first automobile race 110 years earlier, a significant “Grand Prix” of US$1 MILLION was posted, though the competitors knew they were really competing for a place in history and many spent multiples of that amount just preparing for the race. The 142 mile course of rugged desert terrain from Barstow (near Los Angeles) to Primm (near Las Vegas) had to be traversed within ten hours by fully autonomous vehicles – no drivers, no human assistance, no remote control. Significantly, the race was not won, and the mass media coverage bordered on mockery.
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