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Stanford wins the DARPA challenge

Better result than last year

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Stanford University has won the second $2m DARPA grand challenge, in which robot cars have just ten hours to steer themselves across a 150-odd mile obstacle course in the Mojave desert.

Stanford's entry, which is based on a diesel Volkswagen Touareg R5 and is known as Stanley, crossed the line 11 minutes ahead of its nearest rival after just six hours and 53 minutes.

Stanley is equipped with seven Pentium-M processors, GPS, a radar system, four laser range finders and stereo camera set-up as well as a single camera system. It has an inertial measurement unit, that along with wheel speed data can estimate how the vehicle is tilted, relative to the ground.

Just four of the 23 qualifiers managed to complete the course in the allotted time, with a fifth, Team Terramax, trundling over the finish line in 12 hours 51 minutes.

Carnegie Mellon (in a Hummer) snatched second place in seven hours four minutes, Red Team Too (also in a Hummer) came in third just ten minutes later and the Gray Insurance Company's Gray team was the last to finish under 10 hours, posting a time of seven hours and 30 minutes.

Race director Tony Tether said: "I knew we would see some excellent competitors, but to have [so many] teams complete a run on the course, well, that shows how far we have come in such a very short time."

Last year, none of the robotic vehicles managed to get very far. Carnegie Mellon's Sandstorm soldiered on the further, managing around 7.5 miles, but all the rest broke down shortly after crossing the start line. ®

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