Victorville (CA) – 7:00 AM – It’s dark and very early and it feels like I’ve already smoked a pack of cigarettes. The DARPA Urban Challenge qualification round has kicked off amid a host of raging fires burning around Southern California. Despite the horrible air quality, several hundred people showed up for the opening ceremonies led by Dr. Tony Tether of DARPA.
“Who would have thought we’d be here 3 years ago,” said Dr. Tether as he referred to the first Grand Challenge race where the best vehicles broke down seven miles from the starting line. He recalled getting a “spooky” feeling as the first vehicles drove off from the starting line during the first race and even though the press largely condemned the race as a big failure, Dr. Tether knew he was seeing history made.
The winning teams will get money and trophies with the top prize being a cool $2 million dollars, a very heavy trophy and no doubt countless millions (perhaps billions) of dollars thrown at them from defense contractors.
“Even if you don’t get trophies, in my mind and in the mind of the world, you are all winners,” Dr. Tether told the audience.
Dr. Tether reminded everyone that this race is much different than the previous contests because people will actually be in the way of the robotic vehicles as they drive around the former George Air Force base in Victorville. “Safety is paramount and I want all of you to be safe,” said Tether.
Stay tuned for more coverage. We are currently editing and uploading several videos from Team Terramax... and here they are.