Friday, February 23, 2007


NASCAR is one of the most idiotic "sports" there are. It's about sitting in a fast moving oven that drives in circles very fast. It is primarily enjoyed by people who think evolution is yuppie yankee thinking. Interestingly enough these same people, who watch mostly to see someone die horribly, would have at one point been thrown to the lions in large arenas so that others could watch THEM die horribly.

Last night it occured to me what would make NASCAR worth watching. For the 2010 DARPA Challenge I want to see the robotic vehicles compete in a NASCAR race.

Let me backup and explain the DARPA Challenge for those of you who aren't quite as geeky.
DARPA is the research arm of the US military. They conduct lots of research and develop technology that is either flaky or cutting edge depending on whether or not it works. DARPA created the ARPANET which eventually grew into the internet.
In 2001 Congress gave them the task of making 1/3 of ground combat vehicles automated by 2015. To accomplish this DARPA created the DARPA Grand Challenge. It's a race over various terrain, various slopes, and track conditions.

In the 2004 race nobody completed the 142 mile track. In the 2005 race there were several cars that completed the 132 mile race and a few great ideas that didn't qualify for the final race, but with a bit of tweeking should make it in the 2007
race. I'm speaking specifically of a motorcycle that can stand on it's own. Given a few more years they should have pretty well got navigation of a winding road mastered and be ready to focus more on dealing with traffic. In 2006 there were a few instances of one car passing another, but nothing too serious.

In 2007 DARPA has made it the DARPA Urban Challenge. It'll be a 60 mile course that includes navigating traffic, obeying traffic laws, and merging with traffic.

By 2010 I want to see a high speed race on an established racetrack. Hopefully something more than one of the NASCAR loops. Something more like those tracks they reproduce for video games. This should provide a good number of smashups as well as helping to advance the technology.

Then by 2020 I want to see the TV show Robot Wars redone on the highway.

a vehicle being developed for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.

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