DARPA Grand Challenge
A first of its kind, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Association's (DARPA) Grand Challenge offered a glimpse into the future as 15 autonomous robotic ground vehicles attempted to navigate a desert racecourse. The event challenged teams from a variety of backgrounds and organizations to construct an unmanned off-road vehicle that could travel from Barstow, California, to Las Vegas in less than 10 hours. The vehicle that completed the course under the prescribed amount of time was to receive a cash prize of $1 million. The money, however, went unclaimed, as none of the vehicles completed the rugged 142-mile course laid out by Sal Fish, CEO of SCORE International. Competitors' entries were selected after a week-long series of tests held at the California Speedway in Fontana, California, to determine each vehicle's ability to safely navigate and avoid obstacles while running autonomously. Just hours before the race, competitors were given a CD containing the latitude and longitude of approximately 2,000 waypoints and the speed limits for various legs of the route. The vehicles then left the starting area every 5 to 10 minutes as they began the arduous trek.
Despite the fact that none of the entries reached its destination, event organizers weren't deterred. "Today was a most important first step in a long journey," stated Dr. Anthony Tether, director of DARPA. "Although none of the vehicles completed the course, and we were not able to award the cash prize, we learned a tremendous amount today about autonomous ground-vehicle technology." Col. Jose Negron, DARPA Grand Challenge program director, further stated, "We have clearly sparked the enthusiasm and innovation that makes America great. This event has helped us make major strides to advancing the technologies in the development of autonomous robotic ground vehicles."
RCD/Mickey Thompson Extreme Makeover
A new cross promotion between RCD Suspension and Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels will be available to consumers and dealers until September 2004. Dubbed the "Extreme Makeover for Trucks," the promotion will offer wheel, tire, and suspension systems all in one package. The extreme packages, or X-Paks, include a 4- or 6-inch RCD suspension system, Bilstein shock absorbers, 33- or 35-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Radial MTX tires, and 16-inch Mickey Thompson Classic II wheels. For a more extreme look, consumers can elect to upgrade the kit to include the Baja Claw Radial tire or the M/T Classic Lock wheel. Ken Warner, VP of marketing and sales for Mickey Thompson, commented, "The RCD promotion makes sense for us because larger tires are always needed when you lift a truck, and no other modification makes a more extreme statement than a lift kit with big tires and wheels." A special Web site has also been set up so visitors can configure and price a package for their specific application and style. For more information about the RCD/Mickey Thompson X-Pak promotion, contact: (866) 469-7257, www.get-x-pak.com.