Stanford robot featured at Smithsonian

Stanford University's robotic wonder "Stanley" is a software-and-sensors powered Volkswagen that drove autonomously for 136 desert miles to win the landmark Grand Challenge last fall. Not to be forgotten, the robot will take the stage at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History this Wednesday through the summer.

Why such glory? Because Stanley "offers a glimpse into a future of 'smart' cars and automated highways," according to the Smithsonian's announcement.

Stanford's robot--wired with sensors, GPS receivers and AI computer systems--deftly beat 22 other bots to finish first in the 2005 Grand Challenge, a bumpy desert race sponsored by the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The first-ever feat, as DARPA hoped, proved that autonomous vehicles can navigate tricky terrain while maintaining a cautious but steady speed.

Now DARPA wants to see if robots can handle treacherous city driving. And as Stanley hits the public eye at the Smithsonian, Stanford will be quietly working away on its next robot. Stay tuned...

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