The first DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge event in 2004 was a complete disaster without a single one of the autonomous vehicle competitors managing to complete the 142 mile desert course. The farthest anyone got was about seven miles, and most of the vehicles died on the starting line. The second attempt was somewhat more sucessful with four vehicles completing the 132 mile distance, led by a Volkswagen Touareg named "Stanley", prepared by a team from Stanford University.

For 2007 DARPA is sponsoring another competition for autonomous vehicles, the Urban Challenge, but this time, instead of an off-road desert course, they have to navigate an urban environment course, while obeying all traffic and avoiding accidents. The Stanford Racing Team is back with a new Volkswagen, this time a Passat wagon. "Junior", is a 2006 Passat equipped with a 2.0L turbo diesel four cylinder, and the six-speed DSG double clutch gearbox. The DSG box, has the advantage of being a sequential shift setup with clutch-less, forward and back shifting, making for easier automation. Combined with the diesel, it also has good fuel efficiency, which will help because the drive-train also has to power all the guidance equipment and computers. The back of the wagon is packed full of rack mount servers, powered by Intel Core 2 Duo and Quad core processors.

[Source: Stanford Racing Team via Engadget]

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