Named in honor of Herbie the Love Bug, the famous number 53, Volkswagen's GTI '53+1' is car that requires no human nanny. It's a fully automatic car that can negotiate twists, turns and straights at the edge of its performance envelope, all without the aid of a driver's touch. The '53+1' uses radar and laser sensors as electronic eyes, much like many of the entrants in the DARPA Grand Challenge, to read the road ahead, and a satellite navigation system to pinpoint its position to within an inch.
The '53+1' was let loose on a race circuit and reportedly can reach its top speed of 150 mph with no driver on board. To prove the system's abilities, Volkswagen allowed guests at an event to design different road courses using cones and then watched as the driverless GTI ran through them. It even ran through courses faster than the company's own engineers could manage.
While the linked article is sparse on the down-and-dirty details of how the system works, it appears that it's set up to recognize only cones, or at least simple objects on an uncluttered road course. Still, the next DARPA challenge takes place in an urban setting and Stanford, winners of the last challenge with an autonomous Touareg, are planning to use a Passat this time around. If these two ever team up, in the near future we'll be able to order a Rabbit with a Twincharger engine, DSG and Auto Pilot. Now that's innovation.
[Source: Daily Mail]