Stanford team's robotic car wins $1 million

Stanford University announced Monday that the Stanford Racing Team’s robotic car Junior won $1 million over the weekend after finishing second in the DARPA Urban Challenge.

Junior, a modified Volkswagen Passat, successfully made an approximately 60-mile journey through simulated traffic with no human help.

“It is a historic event. It is the first time it has ever happened,” racing team co-leader Sebastian Thrun said.

The challenge, held at a former Air Force base in Victorville, was sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. Its goal was to demonstrate that robots could make decisions about routes and maneuvers, follow traffic laws and perceive and understand the driving environment.

Thrun, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford, said the research that went into creating Junior could someday be used to make automotive transportation safer, either by assisting human drivers or perhaps giving them the option of giving up the wheel entirely when they don’t want to drive or shouldn’t drive.

“Junior looked competent, elegant and agile, but not too fast, not reckless. That’s the theme we have on our team, which is that speed is not everything. It’s really about safety,’’ Thrun said.

The winning team was from Carnegie Mellon University.

— Bay City News

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