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Chevy Tahoe wins 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge

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SUV with mind of its own wins robot car race

Sun Nov 4, 2007 4:03pm EST

By Peter Henderson

VICTORVILLE, California (Reuters) - A souped-up Chevy Tahoe sports utility vehicle with a mind of its own was declared the winner of a robot car race on Sunday after it traveled without help from humans for six hours and 60 miles around a California ghost town.

Nicknamed Boss, the vehicle from Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh won a $2 million prize in the third such race sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, which wants robots eventually to drive military supply vehicles.

The entrants -- including station wagons and a huge green military truck all decked out with flashing lights, warning sirens, spinning laser range finders and cameras -- looked like mini-versions of the "monster" trucks that duel at arenas around the United States. Only six vehicles out of 11 finalists finished the course on an abandoned military base on Saturday.

The winners were determined overnight based on safety as well as speed. Stanford University, which won a 2005 race, came in second and Virginia Tech finished third.

"Yesterday (was) a very historic day," said Tony Tether, director of the defense department's research agency, after handing out checks on Sunday as the winning cars, with humans at the wheel, took off for a victory spin.

The effort has brought together some of the top talents at U.S. universities and corporations to work on a big technology challenge. Science fans have followed the robots' progress avidly, but the biggest benefits are in the future.

The U.S. military aims to put robots behind the wheel of supply vehicles -- with a goal of making a third of its supply fleet robotic by 2015 -- to keep soldiers out of danger. And automakers see intelligent cars helping people drive and eventually taking over the task altogether for better safety and comfort.

Article Continued

Edited by BigPontiac

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It seems like this year's contestants are all alternative-fuel vehicles; Stanford has a Passat TDI, UPenn has a Prius, Virginia Tech has an Escape Hybrid, and Carnegie Mellon has a Tahoe, which is likely E85-capable.

The local high school, our crosstown rival, entered an MDX for a few years, but not in 2007 apparently.

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Edited by empowah

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