The race was conceived and organized by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- the same folks who brought us a little thing called the Internet.
The Pentagon wants an unmanned car that can drive all by itself through a battlefield to deliver supplies, shoot at the enemy and rescue wounded soldiers -- all without human intervention.
Research groups all over the world have been trying to achieve this feat for decades -- without success.
DARPA figured -- correctly -- that the quickest way to achieve this unprecedented capability was to turn America's geniuses loose on the project in an open contest. The DARPA Grand Challenge promise a million dollars to the fastest robot-car across the finish line in the desert last year (none finished, nobody won the prize) and two million dollars this year. Four vehicles finished and 18 did not.
The Stanford Racing Team's "Stanley," a modified Volkswagen Touareg R5, finished with a time of six hours and 53 minutes.
If you haven't seen these cars in action, here is some really good video. Note that the cars are NOT remote-controlled. Onboard sensors and computers are doing ALL of the driving (the cars following can only shut down a car if it threatens public safety).