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Driverless Audi to tackle hill climb


Video: Audi has teamed up with Stanford University to create an independent TTS named Shelley, designed to compete in the 2010 Pikes Peak Hill Climb in June

The Audi TTS has been outfitted with 'drive by wire' technology which uses algorithms developed by Stanford University and Sun Microsystems. The algorithms will process data collected by the "Applanix POS LV420 GPS and the Inertial Measurement Unit" to steer the car up the mountain.

Other technical goodies include an electric power steering system, electronic throttle, and an emergency shutdown system.

While the TTS has a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet with 265hp, Audi says the primary goal is to complete the hill climb "in a reasonable time, using rally driving techniques."

At Pikes Peak, Shelley will climb 1439 metres up the 4300-metre mountain on paved and gravel roads on the 20km race course, featuring 156 turns. The feat has never attempted by an autonomous vehicle.

Nearly 200 cars, trucks and motorcycles are expected to take part in the 88th annual event on June 27, but Shelley will have the road to itself when it attempts the course in September.

So, how does it all work you ask? In a nutshell...

Chris Gerdes, program director for the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford, along with his team, have been working on robotic cars for years and have successfully built two self-driven vehicles before Shelley. “Stanley”, a Volkswagen Touareg, and “Junior”, a Volkswagen Passat both used radars and cameras to sense the road. Shelley has neither camera nor radars, but rather will be making the climb up Pikes Peak following a trail outlined in her GPS system. This GPS system is teamed up with another system that determines speed and sideways motion, enabling it to control the car’s direction when the GPS can’t connect to its satellites. It also provides updates on the car’s position.

Gerdes and his team are currently working to perfect making turns as fast as possible, braking at the last possible minute, and accelerating as soon as they’re steering out of a turn.

The technology could one day be used to create smarter cars that help motorists avoid accidents when they're driving fast, said Gerdes.

"We hope this will be inspiration for future safety systems, for cars that will help a drivers drive up to the capabilities of the car," Gerdes said. "So if you're suddenly on a slippery road, the car should be able to react and keep you safely in the lane, pointed in the direction you want to go."


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