- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
- Detroit porch shooting trial: Suspect says he didn’t know gun was loaded
- U.S. Navy admiral ‘receptive’ to giving Chinese counterpart a tour of carrier
- Islamic State orders female genital mutilation for Mosul girls, U.N. says
- U.N. school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed
- Obama encourages ICE to stand down, say former border agents
Pentagon seeks flashy robots for combat
Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Wanted by the Pentagon: A muscular, outdoorsy specimen. Must be intelligent and, above all, self-driven.
When 20 hulking robotic vehicles face off next month in a rugged race across the Nevada desert, the winning machine -- if any crosses the finish line -- will blend the latest technological bling and the most smarts.
The military sponsors the race to speed the development of unmanned vehicles for combat. The project had an inauspicious start: Last year's inaugural contest ended soon after it began when the robots careered off course or abruptly stalled. One even got tangled in barbed wire.
Fast forward 18 months, and double the prize to $2 million.
Newcomers have joined a few of last year's teams to form a motley mix of garage tinkerers, academia and corporations. All hope that their machines -- fitted with the latest sensors, cameras and computers -- have aged a generation since last year.
Teams have beefed up their vehicles' artificial intelligence through improved computer algorithms that will help them avoid pitfalls such as ditches and boulders strewn across the roughly 150-mile-long course. To get there, the robots must compete in a semifinal showdown that starts Wednesday.
Entrants include several converted sport utility vehicles, souped-up passenger sedans, a modified all-terrain vehicle, a behemoth military truck and a motorcycle.
This year's race shows signs of intense competition. Some vehicles have logged hundreds of self-guided miles in the Southwest desert during summer practice runs. Several tested on last year's course, which spanned the Mojave Desert between Barstow, Calif., and Primm, Nev.
The ramped-up preparation reflects the higher stakes for the so-called Grand Challenge. While sweetening the purse, organizers promise that the course, which this year loops from and to Prime, a casino town on the Nevada-California border, will be tougher and meaner.
Vehicles will have to drive on dirt and gravel, maneuver mountain switchbacks, squeeze through choke points and avoid man-made and natural obstacles.
The sponsor of the Grand Challenge is the research arm of the Pentagon known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), whose best-known success story is the Internet. The Pentagon wants one-third of the military's ground vehicles to be unmanned by 2015.
The subsidies are a hit with patients who don't exist
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- Whistleblowers flood VA with lawsuits despite apology
- Obama's empty tough-talk: Gun prosecutions plummet on his watch
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Obama says public not familiar enough with issues
- Conservative groups decry Democrats' 'war on women' tactic
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Astronaut shares 'saddest photo' from space: Bombs bursting over Israel, Gaza
- EDITORIAL: Obamacare enrollees faking for freebies
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq