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Tata's 100 Miles Per Gallon Bet

Tata Motors
Tata Motors

Here's one for those of you who think auto manufacturers should be trying to build cars that get 100 mpg (and yes, there are a lot of you out there based on the e-mails I get from you).

Tata Motors is the first mass-market automaker to enter the automotive X Prize competition. This contest, sponsored by Progressive Insurance, will award $10 million dollars to the company -- or average Joe building cars in his garage -- who can build a production-ready car that gets the equivalent of 100 mpg.

More than 70 teams from 22 countries around the world have already committed to the contest. But Tata is the first full-line auto company getting into the race.

So why is this a big deal?

The idea behind the X Prize is to spur innovation in the auto industry, and perhaps produce key technology and ideas that could lead to us seeing more "high mileage" models coming out of Detroit, Japan, Germany -- or perhaps India.

Having a mass market company in the X Prize race tells the world, "Yes. There is an automaker ready to show it can do 100 mpg cars." That's not to say GM, Toyota or Mercedes couldn't do it as well if they put their minds to it. I think they could.

With more than 70 entries, this contest, which starts next year with road races in New York, should be fun to watch. And who knows, maybe Tata will come up with the car of the future. Hey, I know a lot of you would buy one.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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