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CMU makes the cut for robotic development

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced today that Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing team and 35 other teams worldwide are semifinalists to compete for $2 million in the secretive government-sponsored Urban Challenge.

The challenge -- meant to spur robotic development -- will pit autonomous vehicles against one another on Nov. 3rd to see which can best navigate roads in an urban military training facility without human help.

Carnegie Mellon is entering "Boss," a Chevy Tahoe named for General Motors Research founder Charles F. "Boss" Kettering, in the competition.

DARPA also announced that the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif., would be the site of the challenge.

"The robotic vehicles will conduct simulated military supply missions at the site," said Tony Tether, director of DARPA. "This adds many of the elements these vehicles would face in operational environments."

The semifinalists will compete in a final qualifying round at the site on October 26th and be whittled down to 20 teams.

Those teams' vehicles will have to perform like cars with drivers to safely conduct a simulated battlefield supply mission on a 60-mile urban course, obeying California traffic laws while merging into traffic, navigating traffic circles and avoiding obstacles -- all in fewer than six hours. The team to successfully complete the mission with the fastest time wins.

"Technology from the Urban Challenge is destined to change the driving experience," said William "Red" Whittaker, Tartan Racing team leader and robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon.

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