A couple thousand miles west, Anthony Levandowski has for a week been catching his nightly ration of sleep in a makeshift basement bedroom, just a few steps below the converted guestroom that serves as his workshop in his south Berkeley, California, home. The 23-year-old University of California, Berkeley, industrial engineering grad student -- and DARPA Grand Challenge aspirant -- has scheduled an important early field test for tomorrow morning. "My initial goal was to have the full remote control and some autonomous control done by last weekend," he says, "but that didn't happen, so now I'm in the basement. It helps keep me focused on the task." The task, as Levandowski has defined it for himself and for a handful of undergraduate helpers, is to build not just an autonomous off-road vehicle, something that has thus far eluded the best efforts of billion-dollar defense contractors -- but to build an autonomous off-road motorcycle. Nine months in, he is beginning to feel the weight of this audacious design decision. Tonight Levandowski permits himself no downtime in his bedroom of shame; he works straight through, struggling with kinks in the program that controls the steering, the crucial link in the software chain. His workshop door is open to the street so he
doesn't asphyxiate himself. "I don't care about the million bucks," Levandowski says. "It's more about realizing that I can actually do something that fairly intelligent people have told
me I can't. Right now, they're winning."