A bizarre race took place last weekend in the Mojave Desert in California when the US’s Darpa sponsored a race between robot-operated or remote-controlled cars. The seemingly fun race did hold a deadly ulterior motive though…

A bizarre race took place last weekend in the Mojave Desert in California when the US’s Darpa sponsored a race between robot-operated or remote-controlled cars. The seemingly fun race did hold a deadly ulterior motive though…

The research and development arm of the US’s Pentagon, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), sponsored the race which covered just over 200 km and offered R6,66 million to any vehicle that completed the course.

Darpa wants to develop robot-controlled off-road vehicles to deliver fuel, water and other supplies to military personnel in desert regions. These vehicles would be unmanned, meaning fewer people would be endangered by armed conflict.

However, all 13 entrants performed dismally with no vehicle completing more than 11 km. Nine travelled less than three-and-a-half km with the only two-wheeled entrant tipping over on the start line before it could display its computer assisted balance capability.

The vehicles travelling furthest were a modified Humvee, which managed to complete 11 km before encountering tyre problems, and a dune buggy that hit an obstacle.

Darpa’s laugh-a-minute race could be the start of great things since the same agency was responsible for marvels like smart bombs, stealth fighters and the internet.