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Audi's Robotic Car Drives the Future

April 12, 2010

HERNDON, VA - The race to the top of Pikes Peak is among the most harrowing in motorsports, a flat-out sprint through 156 turns on a 12.4-mile road to the clouds. It is a test of grit and skill that demands the best from drivers as they brave perilous drops at 130 mph. Audi thinks it can do it without a driver, according to www.wired.com.

The German automaker will send an autonomous TTS barreling to the summit in September. It will navigate the course at race speeds - the best drivers make the run in around 12 minutes - with no one at the wheel or even in the car. No one's ever attempted anything like it before. Although robocars have driven the course, they haven't done it at more than 25 mph. Audi says it is pushing autonomous-vehicle technology to its very edge in an effort to make the cars the rest of us drive smarter and safer.

"We're interested in the safety opportunities this technology presents," said Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, executive director of the Electronics Research Laboratory. Volkswagen Group, which owns Audi, works alongside Stanford University at the lab in Palo Alto, California. "We want to understand the best way to use this technology to provide additional support to drivers in critical situations."

Audi, Volkswagen and Stanford are building on their success with Stanley, a VW Touareg that won the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005, and Stanley, a VW Passat that took second in the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007, according to www.wired.com. Those vehicles used radar, sensors, and cameras to track the road at relatively low speed on a closed and controlled course. The TTS will use differential GPS and an inertial measurement system to tackle a road where anything can happen.

"We're aiming high," said Chris Gerdes, director of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) at Stanford. "Pike's Peak has been a challenge since the first race in 1916. It is a place where you have to push to the very limit, and there's a very stiff penalty if you get it wrong."

Photo Source: Wired.com

The car won't compete in the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb in June. But the all-wheel drive TTS will follow the same course the racers use. It's a mix of pavement, dirt and gravel that rises 4,721 feet at an average grade of 7 percent. The current record for a production-based all-wheel-drive car stands at 11:48.434. No one expects the TTS to hit that mark, and it won't achieve the kind of speeds rally driver Marcus Gronhölm or four-time winner Nobuhiro Tajima have, but it will make the run faster than you ever could.

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