Barely a decade ago, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) demonstrated that driverless vehicles could navigate desert roads and negotiate city streets. Now car manufacturers from Audi to Toyota are promising that autonomous driving technology will make their vehicles safer by the middle of this decade. The success of its unmanned-vehicle Grand Challenges in 2004 and 2005 and Urban Challenge in 2007 prompted Darpa to launch the Robotics Challenge, to set a similar, ...

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