June 22, 2005

Volkswagen Touareg prototype completes off-road course without a driver

Stanley is a 2004 Volkswagen Touareg equipped with a 5 cylinder in-line diesel engine. Click image to enlarge

Wolfsburg, Germany – Last Friday, for the first time in public, an autonomous Volkswagen Touareg completed an off-road course without a driver. Volkswagen put the prototype to the test on a course at Motopark Oschersleben.

The display was in preparation for the U.S. “Grand Challenge 2005”, a unique race for driverless vehicles. The company will enter a sister model of the prototype.

More than just a publicity stunt, the prototype is the basis for realistic driver assist programs, such as electronic stability program (ESP). The Touareg, nicknamed “Stanley”, contains numerous sensors and four laser detectors, which collect data to allow the driverless car to find its way safely and quickly. The systems also use stereo visual equipment, 24-GHz radar systems and a satellite-supported GPS navigation system that can depict the vehicle’s position to the exact millimetre.

The system uses complex and unique software to determine the steering, acceleration and braking commands needed to control “Stanley” electronically, via drive-by-wire systems. It reacts to special features of the road in real time.

“Stanley” and its sister prototype were created by a collaboration between the Volkswagen research department, Volkswagen Group’s Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, and Stanford University.

The Grand Challenge, now in its second year, is staged by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This year, US$2 million in prize money will be awarded, double that of the 2004 event. It starts on October 8 and will follow a 282 km route through the southwest desert in the U.S.

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