Manifesting Autonomous Cars

Volkswagen to robot

By Cindy Meng

Stanford’s robotics department takes pride in Stanley, an autonomous car and winner of the Defense Advanced Protection Agency Grand Challenge (DARPA) on October 8th, 2005. Preparing for the driverless car competition, leader Sebastian Thrun and his team upgraded a Volkswagen car into the prize-winning Stanley.

The main differences between this robotic car and its human-operated counterpart lie with the addition of several extra sensory devices and a 6 layer processing software. The highly developed radars, sensors and cameras on Stanley’s roof transmit upcoming terrain conditions to Stanley’s multiple software systems, like the health monitor, path planner and steering control.

Aside from building an autonomous car for robotics racing, the Stanford Racing Team now works with Google to further develop driverless cars capable of following traffic laws and responding quicker than humans. According to Thrun on the Official Google Blog, an automated car already drove over 140,000 miles around California and even passed major destinations such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Lake Tahoe and the Pacific Coast Highway. Thrun also defines the driverless car project as an attempt to reduce accidents and raise transportation efficiency.