Three robotic vehicles cruised past the finish line Saturday in a Pentagon-sponsored race across the rugged Mojave desert, giving scientists hope that robots could one day wage battles without endangering soldiers.
“The impossible has been achieved,” cried Stanford University’s Sebastian Thrun, after the university’s customized Volkswagen crossed first. Students cheered, hoisting Thrun atop their shoulders.
Also finishing was a converted red Hummer named “H1ghlander” and a Humvee named “Standstorm” from Carnegie Mellon University. The Stanford robot dubbed “Stanley” overtook the top-seeded H1ghlander at the 102-mile mark of the 132-mile course.
“I’m on top of the world,” said Carnegie Mellon robotics professor William “Red” Whittaker, who said a mechanical glitch allowed Stanley to pass H1ghlander.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, plans to award $2 million to the fastest vehicle to cover the race in less than 10 hours.