I got my geek on today and went to check out the Grand Challenge
National Qualifying Event.
You can check it out at http://grandchallenge.org.
Basically it's a huge competition sponsored by DARPA, the people who
invented and funded the internet back in the day.
I don't know what else you can say about an organization after that.
It's like the Orson Welles of government agencies -- doing their best
work early and never quite able to escape the achievement of their
The Grand Challenge has $2 million up for grabs for any team that can
design a vehicle that can navigate a 150 mile desert off road course
autonmously without any driver or human assistance.
We get to the California Speedway in Fontana, the crown jewel of the
inland empire, around 4 pm. If you've never been to a Nascar track,
it's huge. The competition is being held in the infield of the 2.5 mile
The parking lot is pretty empty. We park and just start walking. We a
few people and figure out where we're supposed to go. A beat up old
1970s suburban driving through cones slowly.
We head up the bleachers and watch the slow progress. It drives through
all the cones and goes through the fake tunnel and around the hay bales
and then is out of sight for like 10 minutes.
It finishes successfully.
The next up is a little six wheel golf cart. It looks like this little
thing won't have a chance. It comes out of the gate and goes twice as
fast as the suburban. And just as accurate. Kick ass.
Next is a grand cherokee. It missed every set of cones and practically
runs into the stands.
We left after that. It wasn't very spectator friendly. We were one of
the few people that weren't on a team or related to someone who was.
It was worth it. I felt like I was watching the future, or at least
I want a six wheel golf cart that can drive me around. That would be