The race course is revealed to the teams the day before the competition. Well, there was no winner this year. In fact, the best any vehicle did was seven miles. Most of them were out after less than a mile. the prize is $1M, and it will probably cost quite a bit more than that to build a winning entry.
Which makes this excellent fodder for a get-poor-quick scheme indeed, although perhaps not on the same grand scale as a hotel on the moon.
Most, if not all, of the entries looked like dune buggies with junk attached all over them. I have a proposal for a radically different vehicle. I would build motorcycle with a big gyroscope that would stableize the vehicle and allow it to turn. it would even be able to pick itself up if if fell over. Both wheels wold be driven with independent motors, and a second gyroscope with a vertical axis would allow the motorcycle to lift its front or back wheel. With that configuration, the vehicle would be able to climb just about anything.
What few pictures of the race make the course look a lot tamer than what I had imagined, but many of the cars turned over or suffered mechanical failures, so perhaps the course was rough, just not where the cameras were. It does appear that the course was on a road the entire way. That would certainly reduce the need for climbing capabilities and perhaps give an edge to the 4-wheel vehicles which could carry more fuel and electronics.
Still, a self-stabilizing autonomous motorcycle would be pretty cool. Are there any mechanical engineers, AI guys, and remote sensing experts who want to win a million bucks with me?
This just in – John pointed out that there was an entry like that. I looked at their design and it required less custom mechanical engineering than mine would (gyroscope was a pre-packaged unit, but much smaller than the motorcycle needs if you’re going to stay upright.) I would use the gyroscope for steering as well, rather than try to steer with the front wheel. their bike suffered from a severe case of the wobblies.