After Stanford University won a Pentagon robot race through the Mojave Desert last year, engineers and students hoisted an oversized $2 million check and poured bubbly champagne over their unmanned Volkswagen SUV.
Next year’s winners won’t be as rich.
The Pentagon’s research arm, which has twice hosted the high-tech contests since 2004, blames an obscure section in a defense spending law signed by President Bush this week. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency believes the law prevents the agency from awarding the $2.7 million prize money.
So instead, DARPA will hand out shiny trophies to the top three teams whose smart vehicles can weave through congested city traffic without human help.
“I promise that the trophies will be given because I’ll personally buy them myself,” Tony Tether, DARPA’s director, told competitors earlier this year.
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