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If you're really looking forward to the day when your car says, "You just relax, Dave, and let me do the driving," it just got a little bit closer. GM and Carnegie Mellon University have announced a 5-year, $5 million Collaborative Research Laboratory (CRL) to do work on autonomous vehicles.

The DARPA Urban Challenge wrapped up this past weekend and it has to be one of the most exciting automotive events I've ever attended. There was an electricity in the air. You could feel the energy. It was almost like being at a Formula One race, but with an aura of real importance to it.

After the DARPA dust settled, only 40 minutes separated the first, second and third place contenders for this year's $2 million bounty. The Carnegie Mellon team, behind the virtual wheel of a tech'd-out Tahoe dubbed the "Boss," won the DARPA Urban Challenge, the first event held in a mock city environment.

click above image for more pics from the 2007 DARPA Urban Grand Challenge

There are so many things that I could have done this week. Like go to the SEMA show in Vegas. Or to the auto show in Tokyo. Or the national media launch of the smart in San Jose. Or the launch of the Chevrolet Malibu in Memphis. But I turned them all down. Instead, I'm going to the DARPA Urban Challenge in Victorville, California.

Click the photo for a high res gallery of Junior in preliminary evaluation

We've told you about the DARPA Urban Challenge and previewed several of the cars that are entered, including Stanley. Stanley is the autonomous Volkswagen Passat from the same Stanford Racing Team that won the last DARPA Grand Challenge. As a reminder, the Urban Challenge takes the idea of autonomous vehicles from the last event and transposes the event from an off-road course to an urban environment.

The upcoming DARPA Urban Challenge set to take place this fall will be an extraordinary test of autonomous systems being developed for automotive applications. Previous DARPA challenges contained entrants with all sorts of hardcore, computer-powered gear littering their exteriors. Giant rotating satellite dishes and rows of rooftop-mounted infrared cameras were a common site. The same will likely be true of many vehicle's entered in this fall's Urban Challenge, but one team will be fielding this

We told you previously about DARPA Urban Challenge and the Volkswagen Passat from defending DARPA Grand Challenge winners the Stanford Racing Team. Now there is a second team entering with a Passat TDi wagon, this time from Germany in the form of Team-LUX. The Hamburg based team appears to be taking a more minimalist approach than other competitors. It looks like the vehicle will rely only on a trio of laser scanners, one in each front corner and the third in the rear, as well as a GPS receiver.

The first DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge event in 2004 was a complete disaster without a single one of the autonomous vehicle competitors managing to complete the 142 mile desert course. The farthest anyone got was about seven miles, and most of the vehicles died on the starting line. The second attempt was somewhat more sucessful with four vehicles completing the 132 mile distance, led by a Volkswagen Touareg named "Stanley", prepared by a team from Stanford U

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is part of the US Defense Department, and it provides funding to all kinds of researchers for projects that might at some point have a useful military application. Over the last several decades they have funded many projects, some of which have made it into the civilian mainstream, like a little network you might have heard of called the internet (which was originally born as ArpaNet). One of the better known recent projects, is the DARPA Gra

Now this is what we call an upgrade: NC State University's Insight Racing team has scored a new set of wheels for the upcoming 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge. The team's Chevrolet Suburban, dubbed "Desert Rat" for the last DARPA challenge, which sent vehicles across the Mojave in the final event, will sit this one out. Instead, Insight will field "Lone Wolf," the new Lotus Elise which was presented to them by the automaker last week. In addition to the car, Insight will be receiving support from Lot

Every week, in garages around the world, amateur racers spend their hard-earned day-job dollars repairing and improving all sorts of racecars, with one goal in mind - winning a tacky plastic trophy on the weekend. Now the U.S. government has honored that hallowed tradition, announcing that the robot drivers in the upcoming 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge will forgo the $2 million cash prize previously promised to the winner, in exchange for - a trophy! (Probably a mil-spec trophy that they'll pay too