Saturday, November 3, 2007

VW & Standford University successful in 2007 DARPA Challenge

The future is upon us. Eventually in time it will not be uncommon to see a car that can fully drive by itself. VW has shown this several times with the GTI53 project, named after Herbie the Love Bug, but by also teaming up with Stanford University for the government's DARPA Challenge, preparing robotic cars and competing with various other universities and companies. VW and Stanford teamed up to build Stanley the Touareg for the 2005 desert challenge. For 2007 the DARPA Challenge was set up as an urban challenge to take place on city streets. Stanford chose a brand new VW Passat wagon as their basis for the robotic car for 2007. The wagon was named Junior, I assumed because of the Passat's smaller size to the Touareg. Out of 167 teams to enter, "Junior" was selected as one of 35 entries to advance to the national qualifying event held October 26th-31st. We look forward to hearing more exciting news on the 2007 DARPA Challenge as it becomes available.

Full Press Release:

VICTORVILLE, Calif. – Volkswagen of America, Inc. has announced that Stanford Racing Team’s autonomous Passat wagon, “Junior”, has successfully finished the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge.

“We could not be more pleased with our finish in this tough competition,” said Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, executive director, Electronics Research Laboratory, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “Junior performed exceptionally and has helped provide Volkswagen with valuable information as we continue to work on advancing passenger safety technologies and help to bring these technologies to future drivers.

“This research is an important step for Volkswagen Research towards the next generation of vehicle electronics, and vehicle safety features that will ultimately benefit our customers,” Huhnke continued.

“Junior” is one of only 11 vehicles that advanced to the final round of the DARPA Urban Challenge, an autonomous driving challenge where vehicles traverse an urban environment for 60 miles – merging with moving traffic, navigating traffic circles and busy intersections, avoiding obstacles and finding parking spots. Out of 167 teams who participated in the DARPA "Site Visit" in June and July 2007, 35 were chosen to advance to the National Qualifying Event, held October 26-31.

“The last decade has seen the acceptance of numerous electronic systems that improve the driver’s ability to handle dynamic driving situations, increase comfort during longer drives or assist parking maneuvers,” said Huhnke. “All of these systems are designed primarily to make the task of driving safer, easier and more enjoyable and also safer.”

“Pushing the concept of driver assistance to its limit, a car will someday be able to drive autonomously, either temporarily or for the full extent of the drive,” said Dr. Sebastian Thrun, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, Stanford University. “Junior has been an excellent means to test the many aspects of autonomous driving technology; these can be used for immediate applications in more “conventional” driver assistance and safety systems.”

“Junior” – a Passat wagon modified by the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, Calif. in cooperation with Stanford University has been made possible through the team sponsors, Red Bull, Intel, Google, MDV (Mohr Davidow Ventures), NXP and ApplAnix. Volkswagen and Stanford successfully partnered to win the DARPA Grand Challenge in October 2005 with "Stanley", a Volkswagen Touareg TDI.

Source: Volkswagen