In 2004, the U.S. government held a race unlike anything that had come before it. It was called the DARPA Grand Challenge, and it followed a 150-mile route through the rugged Mojave Desert.
The participants were cars, trucks, ATVs, and one motorcycle. The catch? Each vehicle was required to drive itself—no remote control, no human intervention. Dozens of engineers and robot enthusiasts worked relentlessly to make it happen. The Carnegie Mellon team was a favorite, but every team faced hurdles—from smashed sensors and exploding toilets to poorly placed tumbleweeds. Was the Grand Challenge too grand for its time?