Volkswagen and the Stanford Racing Team won the $2 million DARPA Grand Challenge on Sunday. The Grand Challenge consisted of 23 fully autonomous vehicles traversing 130 miles of rigorous desert terrain for a $2 million dollar prize funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Volkswagen Toureg, aka 'Stanley,' crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 53 minutes and 8 seconds, nearly 12 minutes ahead of the closest competitor.
Run in the Mojave Desert near Primm, Nevada, DARPA's Grand Challenge was devised to spur experimentation and research in fully autonomous vehicles. Competitors were charged with creating machines that could complete the 130 mile course without any human assistance during the course of the event.
The stock diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg R5 was modified with full-body skid plates and a reinforced front bumper. Volkswagen's Electronic Research Laboratory developed a drive by wire system with processing done by 6 Pentium M computers. Measurements are incorporated from GPS, inertial measurement unit, wheel speed, lasers, a camera and a radar system.
"We had a good day," said Sebastian Thrun, director, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. "It has been quite rewarding to partner with Volkswagen on an event that contributes to such significant advancements in vehicle technology. Our win today is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire team."