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Stanford Team Enters Robot Car in DARPA Urban Race

A team of  Stanford University robotic researchers will test a driverless Volkswagen Passat wagon named Junior in this fall's Urban Challenge, an unmanned car race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The Urban Challenge course in November will be a 60-mile test of city driving, interrupted by intersections, rights-of-way, stop signs, and lane changes.

Junior was developed by a team led by Sebastian Thrun, an associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford. Thrun said he envisions a crash-less future in which robotic cars will save people from the hassles and dangers of modern traffic and congestion.

"There are so many aspects of society you could change if you just make cars drive themselves," he told the Los Angeles Times. He described the concept as combining the " convenience of a train with the convenience of a car."

Thrun has a good track-record at the Urban Challenge. Two years ago, the Stanford team won the race with a modified VW Touareg sport utility vehicle called Stanley. That course was mostly a test of speed which took place in the Nevada desert.

The Urban Challenge hands out more than $2 million in prize money. DARPAs said its wants to encourage the " development of robotic-vehicle technology that will someday save the lives of American men and women on the battlefield."

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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