Print 8 comment(s) - last by AmberClad.. on Oct 30 at 10:55 AM

The possible winners rely on corporate sponsors to help offset R&D

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's contest to create a self-driving vehicle that could be used in warfare situations first yielded enthusiasts and non-sponsored contestants.  The contest has evolved from the people working in their gage to  corporate sponsored universities investing large amounts of money into winning the DARPA competition.

The event has gone so mainstream that a sponsors-only section has been created for companies to display products and advertisements next to a designated pit stop area when the event starts at the former George Air Force Base on Nov. 3.

"They've become like NASCAR teams with multiple sponsors and stickers on everything," said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who has followed the DARPA competitions. "It shows that it's becoming big business."

DARPA participants with sponsorship does not guarantee instant success, but teams are able to offset their costs faster and more efficiently with corporate backing.  After Stanford University's Volkswagen Touareg conquered the competition last year, the team was forced to turn down around six new sponsorship offers because they didn't have enough room for advertising on the vehicle.

still has a strong university flavor," said Sebastian Thrun, Stanford team leader and computer scientist.

The Pentagon hopes to have up to a third of all military ground vehicles unmanned by 2015.

This year's participants will have to navigate their cars through a course designed to mimic a city.  All cars must rely only on a computer brain and sensors to venture through the 60-mile course that has obstacles and obstructions.  Judges will evaluate how well each car drives in traffic, obeys traffic signs, maneuver in roundabouts and avoid traffic accidents with the environment.

DARPA will hand out prizes of $2 million, $1 million and $500,000 to the first three cars that are able to complete the course in less than six hours.  

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By AmberClad on 10/29/2007 6:30:25 PM , Rating: 2
TGDaily has some interesting videos of the action so far over at Urban Challenge (mainly just videos of crashes, thus far...). And Wired's Danger Room blog has some interesting reads about the various teams as well.

My question though -- if you're SAIC, do you really want the world to see videos where your company logo is plastered prominently on the front quarterpanel of a robo-car that just crashed into a concrete barrier ;-)?

RE: Sponsorship
By maverick85wd on 10/29/2007 7:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
lol an excellent point...

but yes, because a lot of people are probably going to watch those videos. It's all about the exposure! If you see a company logo somewhere it's more likely to pop up when you consider purchasing a product... for most consumers anyway.

RE: Sponsorship
By semo on 10/29/2007 7:50:00 PM , Rating: 2
well f1 cars and rally cars crash all the time. also, with any race there can only be one winner. would a company want to support a losing team? but i don't know anything about marketing and it's very late. i couldn't understand half your post. don't even know why i'm replying...

RE: Sponsorship
By AmberClad on 10/29/2007 8:03:28 PM , Rating: 2
Heh, looks like not many people have been following the competition :-P. SAIC is one of the sponsors of the Sting Racing team (one of the teams that had a little fender bender accident with their robo-car). The SAIC logo is pretty clearly visible in the TGDaily video of the accident.

Hope that clears up my post a bit.

RE: Sponsorship
By wrekd on 10/29/2007 8:39:23 PM , Rating: 2
My question is, what is corporate sponsorship doing in a warfighter vehicle design competition? What's next..."this prototype cruise missile brought to you by our friends at Starbucks, and the number 7."

RE: Sponsorship
By Flunk on 10/29/2007 9:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
That reminds me, I'm looking for sponsorship for my university's DARPA team. We'll get started just as soon as someone gives us $150,000 (Canadian Dollars please) to get started ;)

RE: Sponsorship
By Master Kenobi on 10/30/2007 10:48:24 AM , Rating: 2
Canada not allowed to compete.

RE: Sponsorship
By AmberClad on 10/30/2007 10:55:25 AM , Rating: 2
Why would they allow various teams from Germany to participate, but not Canadian ones.

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