DARPA ran its pathbreaking Grand Challenge with the goal of spurring on American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that could be applied to military requirements. No team entry successfully completed the designated DARPA Grand Challenge route from Barstow, CA, to Primm, NV, on March 13, 2004. The event offered a $1 million prize to the winner from among 15 finalists that emerged from a qualifying round at the California Speedway, but the prize went unclaimed as no vehicles were able to complete the difficult desert route.
A year later, on October 8, 2005, another round of the Grand Challenge was held in the desert Southwest near the California/Nevada state line. The Stanford Racing Team won the $2 million prize with the winning time of 6 hours, 53 minutes. A total of five teams completed the Grand Challenge course which was 132 miles over desert terrain. These challenges helped to create a mindset and research community that a decade later would render fleets of autonomous cars and other ground vehicles a near certainty for the first quarter of the 21st century.
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