Monday, October 10, 2005

Volkswagen and The Stanford Racing Team Win DARPA Grand Challenge

Text from Volkswagen of America.
Volkswagen Touareg, aka “Stanley,” conquers rigorous desert course for $2 million prize

PRIMM, Nev. —With the technological support of the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), Stanford University’s robotic Volkswagen Touareg, known as Stanley, has won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, run in the Mojave desert near Primm, Nevada. Stanley’s time of 6 hours, 53 minutes, 8 seconds (6:53:08) was 11 minutes, 42 seconds faster than the second place finisher (7:04:50) netting the $2 million prize.

In all, 23 autonomous vehicles went head-to-head over 130 miles of tough desert roads, mountain trails, dry lake beds and tunnels, using only onboard sensors and navigation equipment with no human assistance. These 23 vehicles were selected from a field of 195 teams through a series of qualifying races.

The Grand Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense, aims to advance autonomous vehicle technology.

“We had a good day,” said Sebastian Thrun, director, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “It has been quite rewarding to partner with Volkswagen on an event that contributes to such significant advancements in vehicle technology. Our win today is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire team.”

Project sponsors include Mohr, Davidow Ventures, Red Bull and Android.

Dr. Carlo Rummel, executive director, Volkswagen of America, Inc.’s Electronics Research Laboratory, said: “It has been exciting and challenging to prepare the Touareg for this day. The lessons we have learned in building this highly complex vehicle will ultimately benefit consumers as we apply this knowledge to make our vehicles safer, smarter and more exciting to drive."

Stanley is built from a stock, diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg R5 modified with full-body skid plates and a reinforced front bumper. It is actuated by a drive-by-wire system developed by the ERL. All processing takes place on 6 Pentium M computers. Measurements are incorporated from GPS, inertial measurement unit, wheel speed, lasers, a camera and a radar system.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen of America and its affiliates employ approximately 3,000 people in the United States and are responsible for the sale and service of Audi, Bentley, and Volkswagen products through retail networks comprising in total more than 900 independent U.S. dealers.

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