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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD), sponsors the annual DARPA Grand Challenge (first reported on in the August 1, 2003, NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology), which is "a field test intended to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles that will help save American lives on the battlefield." Individuals and organizations from industry, the R&D community, government, the armed services, academia, students, backyard inventors, and automotive enthusiasts are invited to enter the challenge. The news release posted on this website on June 6, 2005, announces the 40 semifinalists selected to advance to the National Qualification Event, which will be held September 27 through October 6, 2005 in Fontana, Calif. The team that develops an autonomous ground vehicle that is the first to finish the designated route within 10 hours wins $2 million. When the race was first held in 2003, the most successful team managed to cover only 7.4 miles of the desert terrain featuring natural and man-made obstacles. A related website describing the Autonomous Vehicle Practice Facility of the US Department of Defense Joint Robotics Program (JRP) was still under construction at the time of this report.
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