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Frequently Asked Questions (Media)

Q: Why is DARPA holding the Grand Challenge?
A: We have two goals for the Grand Challenge. The first is to accelerate the development of technologies for autonomous ground vehicle operation. The second is to reach out to people with good ideas that don’t normally do business with DoD, and try to get them involved.

Q: If no one completes this Grand Challenge within the required timeframe, will you do it again? Will you hold Grand Challenges on other topics in the future?
A: If no one completes the route within the prescribed 10 hours, we do plan to conduct the Challenge again approximately annually. We also are considering other Grand Challenges on other topics in the future, but we have not yet made any decision regarding the topics or the timeframe.

Q: What additional autonomous ground vehicle technology is needed by the military? What are the capabilities of current unmanned ground vehicles?
A: DARPA and the military are investing in autonomous ground vehicle technology development. We are making progress, but want to push the technology forward more quickly. In particular, DARPA is interested in fostering advances in sensing, behavior and mobility technologies. Current unmanned ground vehicles rely on a person to operate the vehicle remotely. Those that have some autonomous capabilities (i.e., do not use a human operator) tend to move very slowly and have difficulty traversing terrain with minimal obstacles. In order for unmanned ground vehicles to be truly useful to the military, they must be able to cross rugged terrain quickly and easily without needing human assistance.

Q: Has anything like this been done before?
A: DARPA has not held a Grand Challenge before. There are other robotic competitions, but they are much smaller in scope (i.e., robo-soccer competitions).

Q: How will autonomous ground vehicle technology benefit the military?
A: The military is looking toward a future in which manned and unmanned systems work together on the ground and in the air to provide enhanced capabilities for U.S. forces. For an example of the utility of unmanned ground systems, consider Operation Iraqi Freedom. The combat troops moved quickly toward Baghdad, and were followed by supplies and materiel. Protecting the supply lines was critical. In the future, unmanned systems may be able to conduct resupply missions without using humans as drivers, and without requiring additional troops for protection.

Q: How many teams have entered? Who are the teams that have entered? Are the entered teams made up of large companies, universities, single entrepreneurs?
A: Teams that have submitted entries are listed at You should contact the teams to find out more about who is included in each team. Teams can submit their entry any time between April 1 and October 14, 2003.

Q: What does the route look like? Will the teams be given the route in advance?
A: The specific route will not be given to the teams until shortly before the Challenge begins. The route will include surfaced and un-surfaced roads, trails, and off-road areas. Man-made and natural obstacles—both above and below the surface of the average terrain—are likely. Examples of obstacles include ditches, open water, rocks, underpasses, construction, and other vehicles. All obstructions on the route can be either accommodated or avoided by a commercial 4X4 pick-up truck. For illustrations of a typical route, see

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Q: How are you handling safety issues? Will the Challenge vehicles have to mingle with regular road traffic?
A: The route will be cleared of all pedestrian and vehicle traffic while being used by the Challenge vehicles. The Challenge vehicles will be accompanied by a manned safety vehicle, and will have an emergency-stop capability that can be activated by the safety vehicle if necessary. In addition, people will be stationed along the route to monitor the route and the Challenge vehicles.

Q: Do the vehicles have to be totally autonomous, or can there be some human assistance?
A: The vehicles must be totally autonomous. No human assistance is permitted.

Q: Are you specifying the design of the Challenge vehicles?
A: No. There is no restriction on the vehicle size or the type of mobility approach used, other than the restrictions imposed by the route itself.

Q: Will the public be able to view the vehicles as they traverse the Challenge route?
A: Although the details are still being determined, we envision viewing areas at the departure and arrival areas, as well as designated media points interspersed along the route.

Q: Have you specified the departure and arrival locations?
A: The Challenge vehicles will depart from the Barstow, Calif., area. The arrival location in Las Vegas is still being determined.


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