Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Driverless Touareg is World's First Ever Winner of Race for Autonomous Vehicles

Text from Volkswagen of America.
Volkswagen Touareg, aka “Stanley,” Conquers Rigorous Desert Course for $2 Million Prize

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 1, 2005 — Last month a driverless Volkswagen Touareg made history in Primm, Nevada, a desert town on the border of California, by winning a race among other sophisticated robotic vehicles across the Mojave Desert. With the technological support of the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), Stanford University’s robotic Volkswagen Touareg, known as Stanley, won $2 million in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, and changed history.

Last year the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense, sponsored The Grand Challenge, a race across the desert, with the goal to advance autonomous vehicle technology. No robotic vehicle got further than eight miles and the $1 million prize went unclaimed.

This year DARPA increased the prize to $2 million and the best teams from 2004 returned with highly improved robots for eight days of qualifying at the California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. It was immediately apparent there would be a winner in 2005.

Stanford’s Stanley was a brand new entry and it surprised the more established teams by setting the second-fastest time while making the only totally error-free runs and without hitting any obstacles on the Speedway’s course. In all, 23 autonomous vehicles qualified out of the 43 hopeful entrants that had been selected from the 195 teams which initially entered the competition.

It was an exciting race. The 23 robots had to find their way, without any human assistance, over 130 miles of tough desert terrain, mountain trails, dry lake beds and tunnels near Primm, Nevada, using only onboard sensors and navigation.

Stanley passed the pole sitter round the 100-mile mark and was the first to cross the finish line to capture the $2 million prize for Stanford University. The Touareg’s elapsed time of 6 hours, 53 minutes, 8 seconds was 11 minutes, 42 seconds faster than the second-place robot.

“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 included 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 six Pentium M computers. Measurements are incorporated from GPS, an inertial measurement unit, wheel speed sensors, lasers, a camera and a radar system.

Stanley is now the world’s most famous robot – a hero in the world of robotics – and will be on display from November 1-4 at the 2005 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Look for Stanley at the top of the escalators on the Skybridge between the Center and South Halls. After SEMA, Stanley will be on tour at select Auto Shows across the U.S. and Canada.

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.

"Volkswagen" and "4MOTION" are registered trademarks of Volkswagen AG. "DSG" is a trademark of Volkswagen AG. All other trademarks used in this document are the property of their respective owners.


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