The Passat prototype "Junior" took second place in the Urban Challenge 2007. Organized by the Defence Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the US Department of Defence, it is the world's most demanding car race - a contest for intelligent, completely autonomous cars. The finish in Victorville, near Los Angeles, CA is even more remarkable because once again a Volkswagen is among the leaders of the high-tech competition, which has been held for the second time. Volkswagen's Touareg prototype "Stanley" won the first race in 2005.
Junior and Stanley were created in a cooperative effort between the Volkswagen Group Research's Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) in California and Stanford University. That's why both vehicles carried the Stanford Racing Team colors.
Prof Dr Juergen Leohold, Head of Volkswagen Group Research remarked, "The driver-assistance systems integrated into prototypes like Junior will contribute substantially to safety and comfort in traffic because they relieve the driver. We are especially proud of the fact that three Passats qualified for the final event. Therefore, I would like to congratulate the Technical University of Brunswick and the University of Karlsruhe as well as their partners who also made impressive showings with their Passats."The winner of the Urban Challenge 2007 was the American Tartan Racing Team with a prototype Chevrolet SUV, the successor of the car which was defeated by the Touareg Stanley in 2005.
The participants in the final event of the Urban Challenge 2007 were required to autonomously conquer a course of about 100km of simulated dense urban traffic. Obstacles included 60 vehicles generating genuine opposing traffic and a jungle of traffic signs. Of course, participants were evaluated not just on the time taken but on how safety they negotiated the course.
It is important to note that the assistance systems integrated into Junior are not intended to deprive the driver of control but to ensure a significant improvement in traffic safety in the future. This future has already begun with systems like automatic distance control (ADC), lane change assist and park assist.