Before the finals of the DARPA Urban Challenge this November, the organizers decided to actually test the prospective competitors to make sure they could actually function as required to complete the course. Like the original Grand Challenge Event in 2004 and 2005 competitors have to build a fully autonomous vehicle that can navigate itself around an undisclosed course.
Volkswagen and Stanford University won the 2005 event with an autonomous Touareg and they have now completed the preliminary evaluation for the Urban Challenge. This time the car dubbed Junior is based on a Passat TDI wagon and it will attempt to go 60 miles in an urban environment. The vehicles have to follow speed limits, signals and other traffic rules when they compete in Victorville, CA this fall. The full list of thirty-six teams that were accepted into the competition can be found here. The Volkswagen press release is after the jump.
DARPA Urban Challenge 2007 in the USA:
Passat Wagon "Junior" one stage further
Self-driving prototype masters town traffic situations under competitive conditions
Wolfsburg, 10 August 2007 - The participants for the Urban Challenge have been named. All participating vehicles were tested by the DARPA* in the so-called "Site Visit" on 14th June 2007. "Junior", a Passat wagon made by Volkswagen, has now been officially nominated for the next stage. It will take place from October, 26th till 31th 2007 and the final will be 3rd November 2007 in Victorville, CA near Los Angeles.
The Passat, which was built by Volkswagen Group Research and its ERL (Electronics Research Laboratory) in California, was made in cooperation with Stanford University (USA). Vehicles have to travel, without a driver, over a distance of approximately 60 miles in an urban environment. Keeping to all applicable traffic regulations, the vehicles have to drive in normal traffic, follow the rules for the right of way, cross over busy intersections and drive round roundabouts. The winner is the team whose vehicle completes this task first.
Volkswagen's team already demonstrated its skill when "Stanley", a Volkswagen Touareg TDI, won the first race for self-driven vehicles at the last DARPA Grand Challenge in October 2005. The course for that race went through 132 miles of the Mojave Desert to the south of Las Vegas. Stanley functioned absolutely perfectly and won the race after six hours and 54 minutes.
*DARPA (Defence Advance Research Projects Agency) is an agency of the USA's ministry of defence.