In self-driving car race, winners get all the way around track | Reuters

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By Peter Henderson
| WILLOWS, Calif.

WILLOWS, Calif. Nine self-driving cars did not quite zoom around a 2-mile (3.2-km) course in Northern California over the weekend in a race involving students and entrepreneurs from startup companies where the real goal was just to make it around the track.

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, Uber and major auto companies are competing to create the technology for an autonomous revolution that could reorder the car industry and transform transportation.

The goals were more modest for contenders at the Thunderhill West race course, about a two-hour drive north of San Francisco, in the second challenge of Self Racing Cars. All cars competing had a driver behind the wheel to intervene if necessary, and only four of the nine made it around the curvy course without human help.

Location services startup Point One was the unofficial winner when its car got around the track in three minutes and 37.9 seconds.

The cars took individual turns on the track over the course of the event on Saturday and Sunday.

“Someday you will be able to see machines do things that people aren’t able to do. Today we are just trying to catch up with your teenage child’s first drive,” said Self Racing Cars organizer Joshua Schachter, a tech entrepreneur. He saw the race as a chance to push the envelope of new technology.

For the small companies and students, the race course offered a large, safe testing environment. Deciding how to slow down for a turn, for instance, is a big question for a car that drives itself, and startups cannot necessarily afford access to a major testing facility without pedestrians.

Some cars used GPS and other…

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