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Urban robot race gears up

DARPA announces 53 teams to proceed in Urban Grand Challenge.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said Friday that it has whittled down the contestants for its upcoming urban robot race from 89 to 53 teams via qualification events. Among the 53 teams are the Stanford Racing team (winner of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge--a desert robot race across 132 miles), Princeton University and Team MIT. The 53 teams will get a visit from DARPA people next month for a road test of their autonomous cars, in a test of their safety and viability for the Urban Challenge, a robot race across mock city streets slated for Nov. 3. (DARPA will award $2 million, $1 million and $500,000 awards to the top three contestants that finish in the six-hour limit.)

After the tests in June, DARPA will select 30 semifinalists to proceed to the National Qualification Event from Oct. 21 to 31. The location has yet to be disclosed.

"We are requiring more and more complex behaviors at each stage of the competition," Dr. Norman Whitaker, Urban Challenge program manager, said in a statement. "Site visits will be the first real test with moving traffic."