Stanford won the first ever DARPA Challenge -- a test of skill and endurance for autonomous vehicles -- in 2005 with a VW Passat wagon called Stanley. This year it came in second with a VW Passat Wagon called Stanley, Jr. Though the university didn't win the Challenge this year, it did win with VW, which has pledged $5.75 million over five years to fund VAIL: the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory at Stanford.
VAIL will house Stanford's CarLab, a research and teaching program that aims to "radically rethink the automobile in order to deliver unprecedented levels of safety and driver and passenger enjoyment." VW's own engineers will work with CarLab, as well as other academic groups housed at VAIL that explore computer science and electrical engineering, a mechanical engineering group working on cleaner engines and advanced dynamic control, and a communications group that is studying the "psychology of making cars safer and more enjoyable."