Volkswagen of America, Inc. announced that its Electronics Research Lab (ERL) and the Stanford University Racing Team will participate together in this year's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge on November 3, 2007 with an autonomously-driven diesel-powered Passat wagon.
The experience is not only set to win the contest but to investigate further applications in production cars. The chosen vehicle for this edition is a an autonomously-driven Passat wagon, named 'Junior' in homage to Leland Stanford Jr., founder of Stanford University. It will compete on a 60-mile mock urban course that involves merging with traffic, crossing traffic circles and negotiating busy intersections while following traffic laws.
Volkswagen of America's ERL helped outfit the fuel-efficient Passat wagon TDI with computer-controlled electromechanical power steering and electric throttle, gear shifter and parking brake. Custom mountings for the wide array of sensors were also designed and built at the ERL. Intel Core 2 Duo processors make up the car's "brains." The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab added a new software that makes the car fully autonomous.
Volkswagen won the $2 million grand prize at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge with a diesel powered Touareg named Stanley, on a 132-mile championship race over rough desert roads, mountain trails, dry lake beds and tunnels, using only onboard sensors and navigation equipment.[Source: WV]