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Stanford, CMU among robot race finalists

DARPA eliminates as many as 24 teams in qualifying rounds before the big robot car race Saturday.

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A robotic truck, Prius, and family sedan will be among the 11 autonomous vehicles trying to pass their driving test this weekend in Victorville, Calif.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said Thursday that it has selected the finalists for its Urban Grand Challenge, a robotic race at the former George Air Force Base with $3.5 million in total prize money. The 11 teams, whittled down from 35 semifinalists in qualifying rounds this week, will compete Saturday. They must drive a 60-mile urban course with live traffic in less than six hours.

Among those in the race are: Stanford Racing Team, the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge winner; the Ben Franklin Racing Team, from Philadelphia; MIT; Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing team; Team Cornell from Ithaca, N.Y.; and Team Oshkosh Truck.

Those eliminated in the qualifying rounds included: Team CalTech; Princeton University's team; Team CajunBot from Louisiana; and Team Gray from Metairie, La., which was one of the robots that performed best in summer trials.

"The (qualifying event) tested the vehicles capability to merge into traffic, navigate four-way intersections, respond to blocked roads, pass on-coming cars on narrow roads, and keeping up with traffic on two- and four-lane roads. In fact, the only major difference between the (qualifiers) and the final event is that other robotic vehicles will be part of the traffic in the final event," DARPA Director Tony Tether said in a statement.