Eighteen months ago, when Darpa held its "Grand Challenge" -- a $1 million, all-robot rally across the Mojave desert -- none of the competitors could get past mile seven of the 150 mile-long course.That was then, this is now.A second, slightly shorter, Grand Challenge went down yesterday. And three robo-cars managed to complete the entire 132-mile race. Two were from Carnegie Mellon's massive robotics program. Finishing just a few minutes ahead, with an average speed of 17 miles per hour, was Stanley, a modified Volkswagen Touareg from Stanford University.It's an incredible feat. Giving robots the intelligence and the vision to manuever over all that rough terrain was considered closer to science fiction than science fantasy not too long ago. I'm beyond impressed. And so is the Pentagon. "I don't know if I'd go 'moon shot,'" Darpa director Anthony Tether told the Merc-News. "It's closer to the Wright brothers."
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