Junior, the robotic car, has been very very good to Stanford

JuniorSRT_med.jpg

Junior, the Stanford Racing Teamâ''s entry into the DARPA Urban Challenge, came in second in the national contest, held Nov. 3rd in Victorville, Calif., losing first place honors to Carnegie Mellon Universityâ''s entry, Boss. Both cars followed California traffic law and completed the complicated course, Boss simply did it faster.

In this game, however, second place isnâ''t half bad. The Stanford team took home a $1 million prize, and bragging rights; several vehicles crashed while negotiating traffic circles and intersections and contending with traffic; other cars simply became confused and gave up.

And second place looked even better this month when Volkswagen of America, one of the sponsors of Stanfordâ''s entry, announced it would donate $5.75 million to the university to create the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL), to continue to work on automotive research, particularly autonomous driving. The Lab will include a 8,000 square foot research facility and an outdoor test driving space.

Perhaps the sight of a driverless vehicle will soon be as commonplace on the Stanford campus as it was in Victorville, Calif., in early November.

Said Stanford Racing Team co-leader Mike Montemerlo, â''At first when a robot drove by weâ''d all get up and clap, and just over the course of two or three hours, it got to the point where youâ''d turn around and say, â''Oh, there goes another robot.â'' Itâ''s amazing how quickly you acclimate to this idea of robots driving around in a city.â''

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