Congratulations to Carnegie Mellon for winning the 2007 DARPA Urban Grand Challenge, held last month at an abandoned military base in California. Carnegie Mellon 's vehicle "Boss" was able to traverse a 60-mile urban course at 14 miles per hour without a single traffic violation and without human intervention. The grand prize was $2 million. The second-place finisher was Stanford's "Junior." Motor Trend has a good blog post about the event.
Here's the reason why this is cool and important stuff. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006, there were 42,642 people killed and 2,575,000 injured (1.5 MB PDF) in traffic accidents in the United States, incurring an economic cost of about $230 billion, or about 7.6 cents each mile traveled (2000 estimate). Over the past couple of years, it has become clear that these traffic accidents are almost entirely avoidable by cars driving themselves.