Every week, in garages around the world, amateur racers spend their hard-earned day-job dollars repairing and improving all sorts of racecars, with one goal in mind - winning a tacky plastic trophy on the weekend. Now the U.S. government has honored that hallowed tradition, announcing that the robot drivers in the upcoming 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge will forgo the $2 million cash prize previously promised to the winner, in exchange for - a trophy! (Probably a mil-spec trophy that they'll pay too much for, but still.)

Actually, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency isn't trying to save money (taxpayers should be so lucky). Congress recently changed the rules for the Department of Defense, and it no longer has the authority to award cash prizes.

Robot fans needn't be too concerned about a lack of entries for next year's event - the eleven "Track A" teams selected this month for the 2007 Urban Challenge will each receive from DARPA up to $1 million in technology development funding, in addition to the support of their corporate sponsors. The A-teams include last year's winner Stanford University and perennial contenders Carnegie-Mellon University, as well as big-time defense contractors Raytheon and Honeywell.

"Track B" teams, which receive no funding from DARPA, can still earn their way into the final competition for the DARPA mugs by successfully completing qualifying events. The Urban Challenge final event requires competitors to safely complete a 60-mile simulated urban area course (in traffic) in under six hours.

[via engadget]