Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Self-Guided Touareg Featured in Smithsonian Exhibit

Text from Volkswagen of America.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – This summer, in addition to superheroes at the box office, the Smithsonian will display an SUV with amazing abilities that has accomplished an extraordinary feat: without any human assistance, it is able to drive itself.

Stanley, the robotic Volkswagen Touareg that brought home the $2 million prize at the DARPA Grand Challenge in October, will be featured in the Robotics Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History through the summer. Stanley defeated 22 other unmanned vehicles in a rigorous, 132-mile championship race over rough desert roads, mountain trails, dry lake beds and tunnels, using only onboard sensors and navigation equipment.

The DARPA Grand Challenge is an annual competition and a field test intended to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles. Stanley performed flawlessly over the 132-mile Nevada course and achieved victory after six hours 54 minutes. Nearly 200 vehicles from around the world originally entered the competition. A series of semifinal competitions narrowed the final field to 23, including Stanley.

Stanley’s performance is even greater when compared to the previous year’s Grand Challenge: In 2004, no vehicle completed the route or lasted longer than seven miles.

Stanford University, with the technological support and innovations of the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), transformed the Touareg to drive itself without human assistance. 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 and measurements are incorporated from GPS, a 6DOF inertial measurement unit, and wheel speed for pose estimation.

“This was the first time in history that a robot was able to accomplish such a long autonomous drive at such high speeds. It’s a major step toward "smarter" vehicles,” said Dr. Carlo Rummel, ERL executive director. “The technology we used in Stanley leads to safer cars for our drivers, because the car is aware of the surroundings and can better react to the driver’s commands.”

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 sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, Jetta, GTI, GLI, Passat, Passat Wagon, Touareg and Phaeton through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.

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