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Stanford, CMU robots cross the finish line

Three teams finish DARPA's Urban Challenge, but a winner won't be named until Sunday.

ORO GRANDE, Calif.--Three robots finished the DARPA Urban Challenge within the allotted time Saturday, a new milestone in the development of self-driving vehicles.

In the running for the $2 million first prize and $1 million second prize are Stanford University's robotic VW Passat, Virginia Tech's modified Ford Escape Hybrid, and Carnegie Mellon's autonomous Chevrolet Tahoe. These teams finished the urban challenge's three missions within the allotted six hours and without significant problems.

CMU's driverless car, Boss, crossed the finish line a couple of minutes after Stanford's Junior, but the robot started nearly 40 minutes after Stanford. Stefanie Olsen/CNET Networks

Other teams, including the Ben Franklin Racing Team's robotic Toyota Prius, also completed the course, but it's uncertain whether it crossed the finish line in time given various stops in the race.

DARPA plans to name the winners Sunday after compiling and evaluating all of its data on the race vehicles, including data on their speed and compliance with basic traffic rules. DARPA officials had said that the fastest car wouldn't necessarily win if it didn't pass all of the driving rules.

But DARPA Director Tony Tether said that he hadn't seen anything egregious among the first three finalists.

"We have a winner," Tether said in an interview with CNET here at the former George Air Force Base.

Stanford University's robot car Junior crossed the finish line first, but it's unclear whether it will take first prize like it did in the 2005 Grand Challenge, a 132-mile race across the Nevada desert.

CMU's robot Boss followed Junior across the finish line a couple of minutes later, but Boss had started the race as much as 40 minutes after Junior left the starting gate. It was scheduled to leave the starting gate first early Saturday, but it experienced technical problems involving interference with its Global Positioning System, thanks to a local Jumbotron. So CMU gained significant time throughout its three required missions in the day.

Virginia Tech's team, VictorTango, crossed the finish line third. The team was first to leave the starting gate around 8 a.m. and it completed its first two missions first.