• May 11, 2010
Click above to watch video after the jump

Automotive technology is rapidly advancing to the point where we eventually won't need to actually drive a car ourselves in most real world scenarios. At the forefront of this development work is Volkswagen and its new electronics lab in Palo Alto, California that's operated in conjunction with Stanford University. VW and Stanford have a long relationship in autonomous vehicle development and are continuing to develop "Junior," an autonomous Passat wagon that was built for the last DARPA Urban Challenge a couple of years ago. We recently got to play passenger in the backseat of Junior for a demonstration and were quite impressed with its parking prowess.

The basic hardware technology that makes Junior work is fairly straightforward: a mix of GPS, radar, laser, optical and inertial sensors. The hard part is creating the software algorithms that allow the system to detect and work through the more esoteric scenarios that arise in the real world.

The videos after the jump show just far those algorithms have come: Junior can now reverse power-sliding into a parallel parking spot. While this particular scenario is probably not something you want your autonomous car to do without your permission, learning how to do it is important. In the real world there are many variables that cannot be programmed into the controls. The Stanford engineers are developing methods to allow the system to blend instructions for basic scenarios with learned responses from situations like this. Check out the videos after the jump. A tip of the hat to James!

[Source: Crunchgear, Youtube]





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  • 25 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      this is the single greatest things i saw today
      thx AB ;)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Seen, yes, but not heard. Turn your volume down, thar be really loud wind noise here.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Gotta love a bunch of nerds that can teach a car to hoon!
      • 4 Years Ago
      How many takes did that take?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Can't wait until autonomous cars are available. The instances of 'Blue Screen of Death' literally will be.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yea, but I'd love to remove the driver from the operation of cars (a la Minority Report). Because a PERSON is smart, but PEOPLE, in general, are stupid. If cars drive themselves, I think the roads would be much safer. Think about it: no road rage, no speeding (or faster travel because of computation and optimization algorithms), no dangerous driving, no highway patrol, no soccer moms on cell phones. Let's get those bugs worked out and make it happen! Plus, I can take a nap on my commute to work!

        A car would be more of an appliance. Though this would definitely take all the fun out of driving. So long Autoblog!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @DarwinianReject

        Wouldn't take the fun out of driving at all - it would put much more in! Instead of having one car that would be a compromise between safety, efficiency, and sportiness, you'd have two - your 'travel pod' auto car and your fun car. Auto car to work and back every day, playing PSP, and bust out the fun car a couple times a week when you want to drive for fun. Win-win!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Arkz

        Then you don't have good knowledge about how little a professional airline pilot actually files that jetliner you're about to get on.

        Aircraft autopilots compensate for fuel burn, flight time, arrival times, trimming, weight distribution, climb rate, descent rate, performance profiles, and most of the landing/approach cycles.

        The Pilots are there to take over if that stuff craps out or conditions are outside of safety parameters, much like a driver would be in a well developed autonomous car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's incredible, perhaps soon we will see computers drive faster than an f1 or rally driver?
      • 4 Years Ago
      where is the flux capacitor?
      • 4 Years Ago
      So after the car did the powerslide a couple of times and they knew where it would land exactly --they then put the cones in front and behind? No? Then let me see that on actual pavement with line designated parking spaces!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I assume "by a huge margin" you mean the difference of .3 mph of the average speed throughout the course. And 19 minutes over the span of more than 4 hours. Yeah. Huge. Yes, I know that the third place was only 7 minutes more behind.

      But Stanford did win the previous DARPA challenge, so that's not that much far from truth.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Pure awesomeness.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @DarwinianReject

      Our beloved Autoblog wouldn't disappear because of autonomous car travel, it would simply become Auto-AutoBlog.

      :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would be a lot more impressed if there was no one in the car.

      And is it just me or did it look like the person in the driver's seat took his hands of the steering wheel at the last second as the car slid about face?

      • 4 Years Ago
      I was at DARPA's Urban Challenge and seeing all of those cars driving without drivers was cool, but surreal. The "Rockford" power slide just takes it to the next level. Software glitches would be pretty nasty at high speeds.
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