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.
We all know the basic facts about the DARPA Grand Challenge that pitted over 20 autonomous vehicles against each other and the elements out in the Mojave Desert last October. After watching the NOVA special The Great Robot Race on PBS last night the entire enterprise has taken on a whole new dynamic thanks to the excellent backstory provided by the program that reaches all the way back to the first DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004.
Since ESPN passed on airing the DARPA Grand Challenge in its entirety last October, we’re grateful that PBS is picking up the slack. The esoterically excellent NOVA program will air “The Great Robot Race” tonight on PBS at 8PM EST, in which the winning VW Touareg named “Stanley” fielded by Stanford University will be showcased along with technological innovations from the other 22 contenders it creamed on its way to the crown.