The results of Grand Challenge 2005 are in, and Stanley the Volkswagon is the winner! Developed by a team from Stanford University, Stanley was able to complete the 132 mile course through the Mojave Desert in 6 hours and 53 minutes beating 3 other vehicles that were able to make it to the finish line within the 10 hour deadline. A fifth vehicle finished the course but not in time.
Second and third place were both captured by the Carnegie Mellon Red Team. Sandstorm, the Humvee that actually traveled the furthest last year, finished second, and H1ghlander, the Hummer that started in the pole position finished third. Rounding out the group of vehicles completing the challenge on time was Kat-5, a Ford Escape hybrid, designed by a team of students from Louisiana who suffered a severe set back last month when Hurricane Katrina struck, destroying many of their homes and making it impossible for them to practice.
Only 5 of the 23 vehicles that started the race made it to the end. Many suffered mechanical or sensor failures although most made it beyond the 7 1/2 mile distance covered by Sandstorm in 2004. Everyone attributes the success of this year’s entrants to better technology and familiarity with the terrain to be covered. Most impressive was the ability of the finishers to navigate “Beer Bottle Pass,” a 10 foot wide path next to a 200 hundred foot drop off near the end of the course.
The $2 million dollar prize goes to Standford University, and in return the Pentagon has aquired important technology that it intends to use in order to develop autonomous vehicles.