RealTime IT News

Stanford's Stanley Wins Off-Road Prize

Stanford University claimed the $2 million first prize in the Pentagon's driverless vehicle challenge Sunday. The diesel-powered Volkswagon Toureg R5 completed the two-day, 131.6 mile course in the Mojave Desert in six hours and 53 minutes.

Nicknamed "Stanley," the Stanford vehicle averaged 19.1 miles per hour, finishing almost 11 minutes ahead of a Carnie Mellon tricked-out Humvee.

Sponsored by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the race is designed to promote driverless off-road vehicles. The Pentagon eventually hopes to deploy driverless vehicles in the field by 2015.

Stanley car
Stanley wins the $2 million race.
Source: Stanfordracing.org

Stanford's Volkswagon SUV is modified with full-body skid plates and reinforced front bumper. Volkswagon of America's Electronic Research Lab developed a drive-by-wire system for the car. All on-board processing takes place through seven Pentium M computers.

While in motion, the vehicle is loaded with GPS, four laser range finders, radar, a monocular vision system and a pair of stereo cameras.

The DARPA Grand Challenge 2005 began Saturday with 23 entrants prepared to take on the rugged desert course. Only five vehicles completed the course due to mechanical or sensor failures. In last year's first DARPA Challenge, no vehicles finished the race.

Finishing behind the Stanford and Carnegie Mellon vehicles were a customized Hummer and a Ford Escape Hybrid. A 16-ton truck completed the course, but did not finish in the mandatory 10-hour timeframe.

The Stanford team began preparing for the race in May with qualifying rounds beginning in September. In its qualifying round, the Stanford robot avoided all obstacles and successfully passed all gates.

San Francisco-based Coverity provided Stanford with key technology support for software quality and test solutions. Coverity works with telematics companies on car navigation systems and was founded by Stanford engineering graduates in 2002.

During the vehicle's development phase, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) tested and analyzed Stanley's software. SAIL found 68 defects split about evenly between custom software it had developed and software libraries that other engineers created.

More than 30 Stanford engineering faculty and students from various schools participated in preparing Stanley for the race. Other supporters included staff from early stage venture capital firm MDV-Mohr, Davidow Ventures, and sponsors Honeywell, Intel, Red Bull and Android.