In close collaboration with university and industry partners, we perform research in the field of autonomous driving with the fundamental goal to advance development of self-driving functionality.
Our first collaboration with Stanford University was for the 2005 DARPA-sponsored Grand Challenge, where a VW Touareg named “Stanley” won First Place in a race against other autonomous vehicles. Equipped with state-of-the-art hardware sensors and artificial intelligence software, Stanley demonstrated to the world that a self-driving vehicle could successfully trek itself through rough, mountainous terrain and navigate safely to a designated finish line.
We continued the collaboration with Stanford in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, where a VW Passat Station Wagon named “Junior” took Second Place in a race that mimicked real-life urban scenarios. Autonomous vehicles in the Urban Challenge race had to obey all traffic rules while driving in traffic with other cars and obstacles, including negotiation at intersections and parking at designated areas. Junior continued the Stanley tradition of using state-of-the-art hardware sensors and artificial intelligence software to prove that self-driving vehicles could successfully and safely maneuver themselves through complex driving situations.
Taking what we learned from the DARPA Urban Challenge, we developed a variant of Junior named “Junior 3”, which used close-to-mass-production sensors (rather than prototype sensors such as the Velodyne) to research autonomous parking functions for near future production. In October 2009, Junior 3 successfully and safely demonstrated a valet parking application during the Dedication Event of the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory (VAIL) at Stanford University, and again in April 2010 to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Opening Ceremony of VAIL.
We then built the Audi Pikes Peak TTS project in collaboration with Stanford University and Oracle. Learning from professional rally drivers with the goal to improve vehicle safety, the Audi Pikes Peak TTS project used cutting edge hardware and software technologies to enable a vehicle to drive autonomously and safely at the limits of traction. In August 2010 the car drove autonomously on the Bonneville Salt Flats reaching speeds of 130 mph (209 km/h) while driving on an oval course and a simulated map of the Pikes Peak Highway. In September 2010, during closed course testing, the car autonomously completed a non-stop ascent up the 12.4-mile (20 km) Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course in Colorado, reaching speeds of 45 mph (76 km/h) and completing the course in 27 minutes.
The next step in our autonomous driving research is to create new autonomous driving functions that can provide time and safety to the driver. The goal is now two-fold: continue to advance technological development while focusing on how autonomous technology can benefit the customer.