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Photos: Robot vehicles gather for DARPA race

Driverless cars make history in the Mojave Desert by crossing the finish line of an almost 132-mile race.
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1 of 13 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Start your robots

Contestants gather at 6:30 a.m. Saturday for the start of the second annual Darpa Grand Challenge, a robot race in Primm Valley, Nev. Officials waited for the sun to come up before allowing the first car to begin in the 131.6-mile race.

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evening before

The festive camp of Axion Racing the evening before the race.

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start

Race officials load the first vehicle into the starting blocks.

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they're off

The sun is up, and the first driverless vehicle is off. The 'bots were started at 10-minute intervals.

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Stanley passes

Stanford's Stanley passing by within the first few miles of the 131.6-mile course, which included obstacles like tunnels, mountain switchbacks and a railroad pass.

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eight miles--Alice

Team Caltech's Alice drove eight miles before she crashed through the concrete blocks and was stopped by the fence. At least no one was hurt.

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halfway point

Team Ensco drives past the halfway point at mile 68. The robot traveled 97 miles before spinning its wheels in the dirt, having hit a rock.

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Three graduate students from Virgina Tech's department of mechanical engineering stand guard in front of "Rocky," a diesel-powered four-wheel-drive robot, the evening before the challenge. Rocky traversed 39 miles of the course before it quit.

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Oshkosh truck

Team TerraMax's robot, a 16-ton Oskkosh truck with a Catepillar engine. The truck carefully navigated a narrow mountain switchback with 1,000-foot drops and finished the course in 12 hours and 51 minutes. It surpassed the 10-hour time limit.

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DARPA beams info from helicopters, trucks

In a tent open to the public, spectators, team members and sponsors are captivated by video of the various robots on the desert course on wide-screen TVs. Representatives from DARPA in trucks and helicopters following each robot are beaming real-time data and video to the TVs and another 3D-visualization tent.

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Carnegie Mellon's Sandstorm starts the race before 7 a.m. and finishes the 131.6-mile course in seven hours and four minutes, to place second. CMU said Sandstorm, which performed best in the 2004 challenge, traveling only about seven miles, was updated with new software for this year's race.

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The finish line

Sebastian Thrun, robotics professor and head of the Stanford Racing Team, exuberant after the team's entry, Stanley, crossed the finish line, a first in the DARPA Grand Challenge.

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The finishers

The three robot finishers of the DARPA Grand Challenge: Stanford's modified Volkswagen Touareg, Stanley, and Carnegie Mellon University's robotic Hummers, Sandstorm and H1ghlander.

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