The Ansari X Prize for the first reusable private space craft capable of doing two missions in two weeks got a lot of media coverage, and was successfully won, back in 2004. But did you know that there are other X Prizes still on offer?
For example, if you can sequence 100 genomes in 10 days at a cost of less than $10,000 per genome, you can walk away with the $10 million Archon X prize.
Then there’s the Automotive X Prize for the fastest vehicle to win a race while achieving fuel efficiency of at least 100 miles per gallon.
The Google Lunar X Prize will appeal to radio control aficionados looking for a challenge: You’ve got until 2012 to get a moon buggy to the moon, drive it around (at least half a kilometre), and transmit pictures back to earth.
All these prizes, and more in development, are brought to you courtesy of the X Prize Foundation. Here’s a lovely YouTube video of theirs with some of the charm of educational films from times past, when the future was still cool.
If you want to get in on the Automotive X Prize, you had better get crackin’. The big race isn’t scheduled until 2010, but the qualifying race is in 2009, and teams are already at work on their projects.
Popular Mechanics has an interesting article featuring eight contenders at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show which run the economic range from a $3,000 modification for existing vehicles, to a $150,000 concept car full of bells and whistles. The $3,000 mod might actually have the advantage, since one of the criteria for the prize is that it result in a product that lots of people would like to buy. I don’t see a fancy, high-tech SUV in my future, but a $3,000 mod that could be applied to my old Accord to give it better than 42 kilometers to the liter is something I would go for.
Wired did a piece on the prize last month in which they noted that there are already electric cars which can get better than 100 mpg. Has the prize been won before the race is even begun? No, because the criteria include a limit of 200 grams of greenhouse gases emitted per mile travelled, and contestants are responsible for green house gases generated “up stream” — that is to say, electricity generated from coal counts against the 200 gram limit.
May the best (that is, fastest, most fuel efficient, environmentally friendly, and economically viable) car win! While the Automotive X Prize doesn’t have all the glamour of the original Ansari X Prize, the fruits of the research and development by all participants, not just the ultimate winner, will be much more significant for us earth-bound mortals, and for the earth we’re bound to.