The 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge kicks off Wenesday with the National Qualification Event, held at the California Speedway. You may remember last year's Grand Challenge, in which none of the teams succeeded in having their driverless vehicles autonomously navigate the desert route selected by DARPA. This year's Challenge has drawn more entries, no doubt attracted in part by the $2 million cash prize.

43 teams are slated to participate in the NQE. The best 20 will be invited to the Grand Challenge event, which begins October 8th. Unlike last year, many teams have already successfully logged lots of desert testing mileage, including the Stanford University entry, "Stanley" (pictured).

DARPA's website will offer continuous coverage of both the NQE and the Grand Challenge, including real-time map updates.

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