The US government is holding contests with big prizes for scientists who can develop cars that drive themselves. What’s the rationale behind this: Avoiding auto accidents? Developing jeeps and tanks that are not vulnerable to roadside bombs? Exploration of the moon and Mars? Keep reading to learn more.

In BBC news, Jon Stewart reports that a the winner has been announced in a California race for robotic vehicles. According to Stewart, the winner?a modified Chevy Tahoe called “Boss”?”successfully drove around an urban environment, avoiding other cars, and covering 60 miles in less than six hours, all without any human control.”

Everything didn’t go perfectly however. The race was set in a simulated town in the California desert, and the watching crowd gasped as a huge truck called TerraMax, the largest vehicle in the race, “became confused as it navigated around the urban environment, and drove into an empty shop.” Steward quotes one of the spectators as saying, “It seemed like it was parked, and then all of a sudden it climbed up the curb, and nudged itself into that building.” But there was no need to worry because, according to Stewart, “Each robotic car was followed by a human in a pace car equipped with a kill-switch, designed to stop the robot instantly if it started acting erratically.”

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