The dust has hardly settled on the second DARPA Grand Challege and the Pentagon’s Defense Advance Research Project Agency has already announced a new challenge that pits competitors and their autonomous vehicles against an urban environment. The new Urban Challenge will occur on November 3, 2007, but not before many rounds of qualifying. The course will be 60-miles long and entrants must safely complete it in less than six hours while obeying traffic laws, avoiding obstacles, merging with traffic, negotiating intersections and even backing in and out of parking spaces. None of these elements were present in the prior to challenges that took place in the desert.

The top prize will again be $2 million, but there will also be a second prize of $500k and a third of $250k. What’s even more interesting is that DARPA (a.k.a. the government) will be offering research funds to certain contenders in exchange for limited licensing rights of any resulting technology.

We suspect this is the Pentagon’s subtle way of gaining access to the technology that created the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) and David Hasselhoff’s impenetrable coif of helmet hair, both of which could prove useful in an urban battle environment.

Read more details of the Urban Challenge at MSNBC’s article here.

[Source: MSNBC via Engadget]