The robotic Volkswagen Touareg, nicknamed “Stanley,” that brought home the $2 million prize at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge in October, will be featured on NOVA’s “The Great Robot Race,” airing on PBS March 28 at 8 p.m. ET. Stanley defeated 22 other unmanned vehicles in a rigorous, 132-mile championship race over rough desert roads, mountain trails, dry lake beds and tunnels, using only onboard sensors and navigation equipment. The NOVA program will provide an in-depth look at the DARPA Grand Challenge and the technological innovations of the race contenders.

The DARPA Grand Challenge is an annual competition and a field test intended to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles. Stanley performed flawlessly over the 132-mile Nevada course and achieved victory after six hours 35 minutes. Nearly 200 vehicles from around the world originally entered the competition. A series of semifinal competitions narrowed the final field to 23, including Stanley. Stanford University, with the technological support and innovations of the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), transformed the Touareg to drive itself without human assistance.

Stanley is built from a stock, diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg R5 modified with full-body skid plates and a reinforced front bumper. It is actuated by a drive-by-wire system developed by the ERL. All processing takes place in six Pentium M computers and measurements are incorporated from GPS, a 6DOF inertial measurement unit, and wheel speed for pose estimation. Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen of America, Inc. and its affiliates employ approximately 3,000 people in the United States and are responsible for the sale and service of Audi, Bentley, and Volkswagen products through retail networks comprising in total more than 900 independent U.S. dealers.

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