Across the US, teams of boffins are working feverishly in preparation for this year’s Darpa Grand Challenge. As many readers will recall, this is an off-road driving competition run by the US defence agency, this year offering a $2m prize to any team that can build a self-guided robot vehicle capable of negotiating a tough, 150-mile course.
In 2004 the hot favourite was a modified military Humvee called Sandstorm, built by Red Team Racing. This seven-feet-wide, two-tonne behemoth was sponsored by Intel among others and boasted four Itanium and eight Xeon processors. It got the furthest of all the entrants last year, covering a somewhat embarrassing 7.4 miles before getting itself wedged.
With lessons learned, this year promises a better race - to be held on 8 October 2005. Red Team has got two entries past the scrutineers: an updated Sandstorm, plus a modified civilian-spec Hummer H1 called H1ghlander, which boasts seven Pentium-M processors and an Itanium 2.
However, Sneak is backing neither of these two lumbering heavyweights. Sneak would dearly like to see the more nimble, AMD-backed Ghostrider from the rival Blue Team race off with the prize. Not only does it make do with a lot less processing horsepower - one AMD Geode NX1500 embedded chip - it also has a lot less actual horsepower, being powered by a 125cc engine as opposed to Red Team’s 6.5 litre turbodiesels. It also makes do with fewer wheels: as the name suggests, Ghostrider is a motorcycle - meaning its hardworking Geode not only has to work out where to go and how to get there, but how to stay upright as well.
Resetting the telemetry circuits and associated boards brought the instrument back to operations mode
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