I'm surprised at how hard it is to find regular, up-to-date news on the Grand Challenge. What happened to this whole “blogging will route around traditional, moribund journalism/media” (hee) thing? Is everyone in Barstow too busy, or is the problem that there are no cafes with wireless out in the desert?
Alan Boyle at MSNBC has somewhat regular coverage.
There are some good quotes in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article from yesterday:
Posted by jjwiseman at March 12, 2004 09:03 AM
“Watching a robot is like watching a clock,” shrugged Carnegie Mellon professor William "Red" Whittaker, dripping from the chest full of ice cubes dumped on him by his jubilant Red Team colleagues. “Robots do what they are supposed to do.”
Most spectators thought that was funny. But no one laughed when “TerraMax,” a hulking, six-wheeled military truck developed by OshKosh Truck Corp. and Ohio State University, tore away chunks of a concrete barricade the first time it lumbered out of the gate.
[Terramax is based on the Oshkosh Truck Company's Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR), the smallest of which has a curb weight of 27,800 lbs.]
“That thing's a monster,” said a worried Sal Fish, president of SCORE, the off-road racing organization coordinating the race events. “We've got to make sure our emergency stops work for all these vehicles. That could have been somebody's house.”
After some initial difficulty, the University of Florida's “naviGATOR” robot seemed to be negotiating the course flawlessly — until it passed beneath a pedestrian bridge over the track. The modified Isuzu Trooper promptly executed a hard right turn and slammed head-on into a chain-link fence. The overpass had blocked satellite signals and left the robot without its bearings.
Losing their satellite “lock” left other vehicles circling aimlessly or wandering down the track like lost puppies.
By the end of the qualifying, judges and race officials were cheering for the underdogs as loudly as were the “geeks and greaseballs” who built them. Cal Tech's “Bob” drew whoops and screams from the crowd. “Go, Bob, go!” they screamed. “Awesome Bob!”
“Bob” edged forward 20 feet and stopped.
“He's thinking,” race commentator Charlie Engelbart announced.
“Stay on the track, Bob,” Engelbart cautioned as the vehicle began straying to one side of the course.
“I can't believe I'm talking to a car,” he said into the open microphone. “This is like teaching your kid how to drive . . . only nobody's driving.”