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Carnegie Mellon Red Team: Funded by Caterpillar, for DARPA
by Daniel P Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005 at 5:01 PM (email address validated)

Caterpillar Incorporated furthers its support of a Carnegie Mellon project to create a driverless vehicle to negotiate off-road in the Nevada desert.

Carnegie Mellon Red ...
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Caterpillar Incorporated has announced that it is strengthening support for Pittsburgh's own Carnegie Mellon University's "Red Team." The "Red Team" is an organization that seeks to build an autonomous (self-driven) off-road vehicle. This is being done to compete in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Association's (DARPA) Grand Challenge. The full press release, issued by Carnegie Mellon on August 25th, is attached at the end of this article.

The DARPA Grand Challenge is a prime example of the close ties between academia and militarism in the modern day. While members of the Red Team and public relations gurus often speak of the commercial and civilian applications of the technology, the fact remains that the specifications of the contest are being given to these talented students and engineers from an organization that is part of the United States military. It should strike people as no coincidence that the competition isn't negotiating through traffic on I-76, but rather negotiating the barren Nevada desert- a terrain far more similar to Iraq and Afghanistan than the populated areas that a civilian autonomous vehicle would have to navigate.

Caterpillar Incorporated is best known for making the construction and demolition equipment that makes sure that the forces of concrete will prevail in the War on Earth. But they're also responsible for furthering another war, a war against Palestinian families. Their D9 bulldozer is popular in the Israeli military, which converts it into an armored vehicle that is feared by Palestinians everywhere. Israel uses this equipment to demolish Palestinian homes on both sides of the Green Line- in the West Bank and Gaza, house demolitions often occur when land is seized for a security area around a settlement, or in retaliation for attacks against Israelis. Inside of the Green Line and in Occupied East Jerusalem, there has been an increasing number of home demolitions against Palestinian families for failure to have a proper building permit, despite the fact it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to get the needed permits. All of this has sparked a boycott of Caterpillar.

What would Caterpillar do with an autonomous vehicle? One of the obvious customers would be none other than the Israel Military. An autonomous version of the Israeli Armored D9 would be able to demolish Palestinian homes with no risk of loss of life to Israelis. It would also presumably show even more reckless disregard for life than the manned counterparts, which have claimed the lives of Palestinians as well as the American activist Rachel Corrie.

To continue to pretend that Red Team is working on a project that will be known for its peaceful applications is dangerously naive. This isn't a technology that's being developed for altruistic reasons, or for peaceful reasons. The inspiration and funding for this project is military. It's time Carnegie Mellon students face the facts.

For more information on Carnegie Mellon University's involvement in the military-industrial-academic complex, the Pittsburgh Organizing Group has produced a flyer called Carnegie Military University. It was originally used around the POG demonstration of March 20th, 2004 as part of the campaign against the Gladiator autonomous armored vehicle, another Carnegie Mellon project being designed for the US Marines.

Hey Assholes...
by CMU employee Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005 at 3:20 PM

... if it weren't for the ties between academia and the Internet, this website wouldn't even exist.

The existence of the military has its pro's and its con's. Protesting the entire institution is just stoopid.

Protesting School
by former CMU employee Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005 at 4:29 PM

I have nothing against CMU, but I don't think that means I should have to hold my tongue about military funding anymore than Daniel P. In fact, I happen to know that the people who put together the "Carnegie Military University" pamphlet were mostly CMU students, or former CMU students.

I hope for your conscience that your job at CMU doesn't involve military funding.

Have you stopped to think about this?
by Someone Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005 at 7:20 PM

Seriously people, how could CAT be responsible in any way for what happens around the world. Do you hold Boeing responsible for 9/11? It's the same situation, bad people using innocent technology for bad purposes. Don't blame CAT for the Israeli military buying bulldozers, converting them to armored vehicles, then demolishing houses.

As for the Anti-CMU stuff, they do have a lot of government funding, but much of that information is inflated and mis-represented. They show CMU gets lots of money from the DoD but you have to remember, DoD, and more specifically DARPA, is responsible for things such as GPS and the Internet. DoD also gives funding for software development at CMU used against cyber-terrorism and such.

Next time, try thinking logically first instead of finding the first scapegoat you can.

great job!
by vincent / blast furnace radio Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 2:04 AM


great research, is this the "go back to school" primer for cmu kidz?

tanx for your work!

Defense spending and personal responsiblity
by Daniel P Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 3:15 AM


CAT sells the bulldozers directly to the Israeli military. D9s aren't John Deere riding mowers- the Israeli Army orders a fleet of them from CAT, and CAT fills the order knowing full well what Israel will do with it. The analogy to Boeing is therefore false. It would be correct, however, if Boeing sold the 747 directly to the 9-11 hijackers, knowing full well what they'd do with them. ("After all, they could have just bought them from someone else.")

It's true that defense funding is responsible for things like the Internet and GPS. This is actually completely irrelevant from the article at hand- I was targetting the criticism towards Red Team, which is clearly developing a product to military, not civilian, specifications. In addition, GPS and the Internet were designed for military specifications and whether or not they'd be the same if they were designed from the ground up for peaceful purposes is a question of speculation. Finally, we can make an argument- it might be hard for some people to swallow- that the research and development that created the Internet and GPS isn't an ethically good thing. From a free market perspective, this would simply be arguing that subsidizing research and development causes overconsumption of it. From a primitivist standpoint, the argument would be that the development of technology is leading to the increased efficency of the oppression of people and as such, is an obstacle to freedom.

This leads me into CMU employee's argument. It's true that defense research has created the internet. But now, that's irrelevant: it is here. It can be used for good, therefore, it should be. That says nothing, in my opinion, of the morality and ethics behind sinking tax dollars into military development of a computer network (of which the internet eventually grew out of).

Also, Someone, I don't believe anything is being exaggerated here at all. I am a student at Carnegie Mellon, and I spent two years studying engineering. I have seen the companies who come to job fairs- they are dominated by Boeings, Lockheed Martins, Bechtels, United Defense, and various military research facilities. More to the point, I've heard professors in what was then my field cite DARPA manuals as being the authoritative source on the "proper" way of doing things. That's not teaching engineering, it's teaching DARPA grant writing.

Vince, thank you for the kind words on the article.

by Crusher Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 11:23 AM

So what. The Isreali Army also buys Hershey Bars for th troops and steel toe Wolverine Army Boots for kicking Ass. ANd you little Anarchist hard-core unemployalbe love Hershey Bars and Wolverine shit kickers.

CAT is contributing mightily to the appropriate defense of a sovereign state.

Kiddies, get a life and get an education. Your inch deep analysis and complete lack of any broader understnading of economic, social and political issues makes you all appear to be self-involved diletantes and sycophants. Oh, wait a second, I forgot that that's exactly what you are. Okay, carry on.

by > Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 11:25 AM

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people not needing the aritcle?
by Daniel P Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 12:41 PM

I think it's clear that a lot of the trolls don't actually read the article. The issue here isn't just CAT, in fact, CAT is far from the central player. The only reason there's a focus on it is CAT is announcing increased support for Red Team. That's why this story is timely.

Red Team, even if CAT were not involved, is still very clearly a military project, that they are billing as a friendly competition and are speaking mainly about the civilian applications of the technology. At the very least, they should be more honest that an autonomous car that can negotiate the Nevada desert is of far, far more value to commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan than it is any peaceful purpose.

by < Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 2:03 PM

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by Mr Pharmacist Tuesday, Sep. 06, 2005 at 7:49 PM

To whomever posted the previous comment: You are a sad and petty human being.

Wow - dumb article
by Louis Thursday, Sep. 08, 2005 at 3:52 PM

Man – just reading this drivel makes my brain hurt. As mentioned in another comment, the friggin Internet was a DAPRA funded project… and as this article cleverly illustrates, there clearly isn’t any civilian use for that little invention.

You know, I had a hippy friend of mine that drove a VW Beetle… I seem to remember why those were first produced… wait, let me think… naw, lost it.

You know, if this article were written in 1968 I’m sure the author would practically climax while gleefully pointing out the “coincidence” in design between the Saturn 5 rocket and the Minuet-Man missile. A civilian application for an autonomous vehicle?? I certainly can’t think of any…. Of course I’m too busy watching CNN coverage of the NO disaster (at this very moment they are showing footage of rescue workers wading through toxic sludge in an attempt to recover bodies, and it’s so graphic – so filled with human drama – that my imagination just can’t come up with any possible CIVILIAN applications). Oh, wait, Brit Hume just said something poignant…

It’s stuff like this that makes me ashamed to be a liberal. Common Indy-Media, you can do better than this.

On October 18th VOTE BOMBS
by SNAKE Monday, Sep. 12, 2005 at 7:56 PM

Boycott Caterpillar!
by dave Friday, Oct. 14, 2005 at 5:45 PM


Their supplying the illegal wall-builging in Palestine is immoral.
And this personless tank looks like nothing but a civilian death machine.

louis that was classic
by jon Monday, Apr. 03, 2006 at 8:01 PM

I have to say I got a good laugh at this one

"You know, I had a hippy friend of mine that drove a VW Beetle… I seem to remember why those were first produced… wait, let me think… naw, lost it."

thank you

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