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DARPA Challenge Over
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So the DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomous ground vehicles is over, and five vehicles successfully navigated all 132 miles of the course.

Hmm...was this a quantum leap in technology over the past 12 months?

Glenn Reynolds thinks this is a sign that the Singularity is near, and that robot overlords are just around the corner.

Uh, not so fast. I've heard information to the effect that DARPA made the track much easier this year (though I swear I saw something on their site about actually making it more difficult). I've heard that most of the track was bulldozed flat ahead of time...not exactly natural desert terrain. This seems consistent with results, possibly also indicating that DARPA lowered the bar simply because they were fed up with administering the program.

So even if they didn't navigate 132 miles of realistic desert terrain, it's still fairly impressive that five vehicles finished. I wouldn't start stockpiling EMP weaponry for WWIII -- Man vs. Machine, but it's not entirely insignificant either. The real indicator will be if any of this technology actually ends up on the battlefield, or in commercial vehicles, in the next few years. I'll continue to remain suitably skeptical until then.

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