November 4, 2007

US military organized robotic cars race

Robotic cars competed Saturday in a high-stakes race organized by the US military, which hopes to make driverless vehicles weapons on urban battlefields by 2015. The competition was staged at an unused military based in Victorville, a California town 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Los Angeles, and promises a first-place prize of two million dollars. Cars and trucks with electronic brains, sensors, radar and other sophisticated gear crafted to eliminate the need for humans at steering wheels had to maneuver 100 kilometers along mock city streets in less than six hours.

The event began with mechanics, one-by-one, moving the eleven competitors to the starting line. At the fateful moment, drivers abandoned the vehicles, which began moving on their own, eliciting cheers from thousands of spectators. The cars picked up pace as they found their way along streets of the closed-down base without any help. Forty other cars, driven by people, set out with the robot vehicles to simulate city traffic. Teams that qualified to be in the "DARPA Challenge" include those from prestigious US universities such as Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Virginia Tech, where 33 people were slaughtered in a tragic shooting spree in April.

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