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The Pentagon is giving $1 million to anyone who can figure out how to do it without crashing.

"It really brings a new name to a smart computer," says Chris Seide, a student at Palos Verdes High School.

The winner will be the first robot to cross the desert in a bizarre driverless challenge this weekend, from California to Nevada.

They are 200 very solitary miles in an unforgiving environment, where the pilotless vehicles will have to avoid more than just terrain. In this race, the hares will quite literally have to avoid the tortoise: the Desert Tortoise that is.

"It's great to watch, but we'd like to keep them a little further away in this case," says Biologist Gilbert Goodlett.

Unmanned vehicles make some biologists a little nervous. Endangered species are just as easy to hit as a would be land mine.

It's all a little extreme to be sure. But images of a cyber soldier being towed off the battlefield -- instead of a son or daughter taken off in a stretcher -- go a long way to make the future -- a little less distant.
  • Jaime Holguin

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