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DARPA's Desert Drag

The Grand Challenge is on, tomorrow, in the Mojave Desert.The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has picked its 23 finalists for the unmanned vehicle race, the second the agency has run. The first didn't go so well -- no vehicle made it past the seven-mile mark -- but this year DARPA expects to hand out the $2 million prize to the team with the vehicle that "traverses the entire course the fastest in under ten hours."cajunbot.jpgTen hours. That's a lot of driving. And the teams have to circumvent or overcome "lakebeds, narrow desert roads, tight turns, tunnels, gateways and treacherous mountain passes."But here's the cool thing: The teams won't know the course until about two hours before the race begins.The whole shebang will be webcast here.A Carnegie-Mellon Hummer gets the pole position.Virginia Tech has two teams; so does Carnegie-Mellon.The CajunBot (that's the one in the picture) makes it. The GhostRider motorcycle, sadly, does not.If you're in the area, DARPA welcomes spectators; its Web site offers a tip sheet for onlookers here. Have fun.-- Posted by Dan Dupont

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