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15 Robots Maneuver Their Way, or Don't, Into Race

March 13, 2004|From Associated Press

Fifteen teams have qualified for today's $1-million self-navigating-robot race across the Mojave Desert, even though more than half of them failed to finish a flat obstacle course a little more than a mile long during trials.

Seven unmanned vehicles -- ranging from dune buggies to a 16-ton truck -- navigated the test course sprinkled with gravel pits, metal rods and other barriers in qualifying runs this week.

The robots didn't have to finish the course to make it to the full military-sponsored race.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's research and development arm, held the trials at California Speedway in Fontana.

Qualifiers that finished the course are:

* Red Team, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

* Team Caltech, Pasadena.

* Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

* Digital Auto Drive, Morgan Hill, Calif.

* SciAutonics II, SciAutonics LLC and Elbit Systems Inc., Thousand Oaks.

* Team TerraMax, Oshkosh Truck Corp., Oshkosh, Wis.

* Axion Racing, Westlake Village.

Contestants that didn't finish the practice course but still qualified are:

* Blue Team, Berkeley.

* Palos Verdes High School.

* Golem Group, Richard Mason, Santa Monica.

* Team Terrahawk, Terra Engineering, Gardena.

* SciAutonics I, SciAutonics LLC, Thousand Oaks.

* CIMAR, University of Florida and Autonomous Solutions Inc., Gainesville, Fla., and Logan, Utah.

* Team CajunBot, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, La.

* Team Ensco, Ensco Inc., Falls Church, Va.

DARPA's key criterion was whether the finalists posed safety risks, agency spokeswoman Jan Walker said.

DARPA will award $1 million to the first team whose vehicle can cover a rugged 210-mile desert course from Barstow to Primm, Nev., in less than 10 hours.

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