Robotic vehicles competing for a $2 million prize will have to traverse 150 miles of rugged desert that begins and ends in Primm, Nev., the competition's organizer said Tuesday.
Until now, the location of the so-called Grand Challenge contest had been a secret. Organizers decided to change it this year to make it easier to track the vehicles, said Tony Tether, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is sponsoring the race.
DARPA, the research and development arm of the Pentagon, aims to foster the development of unmanned vehicles that could be used in combat.
The Oct. 8 competition is a sequel to last year's first-ever robot race across the Mojave Desert, which plotted a a course stretching from Barstow, Calif., to Primm.
The exact course for this year's competition won't be revealed until two hours before the race.
None of the teams won the $1 million prize last year. A converted Humvee by Carnegie Mellon University was the best performer and it broke down after just 7 1/2 miles.
Forty-three robotic vehicles will compete head-to-head in the semifinal round of this year's competition, which is scheduled for the California Speedway in Fontana in late September and early October. Only 20 vehicles will earn a spot on the starting line for the Oct. 8 final.
The vehicles are supposed to be built to maneuver without human help through a series of man-made obstacle courses. They must rely on global positioning satellites and various sensors, lasers, radar and cameras to detect and avoid barriers.
The race is part of the Pentagon's efforts to have one-third of all military ground vehicles unmanned by 2015.