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Stanford robot passes driving test

Junior, Stanford's robot Volkswagen, passed a basic driver's test Thursday. A team of officials from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) visited a parking lot next to Google to test the car to see if it would qualify for the upcoming Urban Challenge, DARPA's third competition for driverless vehicles.

Driving at 15 mph, Junior passed with flying colors, including a 3-point U-turn and successful navigation of a four-way stop with human-driven cars.

The team working on this project consists mostly of graduate students, research staff and faculty; the squad works in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL).

From a recent CNET article:

Stanford Racing Team is notable because it won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, a $2 million robot race across 132 miles of Nevada desert. At the time, Stanford was a new entrant to the DARPA Grand Challenges--which first began in 2004--and kept a lower profile than teams organized by institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, a pioneer in robotics that entered two cars in the race. But Stanford's robot, Stanley, finished the course in the fastest time--under 10 hours--making it the first to accomplish DARPA's mission for autonomous cars and set a new standard in artificial intelligence.

Now the Stanford team has drawn widespread attention and sponsors such as Google, Red Bull and Intel. A Google representative at the test site said that Google co-founder Larry Page called him up last year and said that "he wanted to sponsor the best teams."

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