The longstanding relationship between Volkswagen and Stanford University has resulted in the creation of two autonomous vehicles for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Now the automaker has partnered with Stanford researchers and students to develop advanced automotive technologies aimed at making cars safer and more environmentally friendly.
Through its domestic automotive division, Volkswagen Group of America, the German automaker is investing $5.75 million to fund the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory (VAIL) for research and development on next generation automotive technologies. The new initiative, combined with Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Laboratory, located in Palo Alto, California will give Volkswagen the largest Silicon Valley research presence of any automaker, foreign or domestic.
According to Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, CEO of Volkswagen’s Bentley Motors division, “This collaboration can draw on a long-standing relationship between the Volkswagen Group and Stanford, which continues to increase the exchange between industrial and academic talent.”
The goal of the partnership says Paefgen, is to “accelerate automotive-related research on campus, increase opportunities for collaboration between the VW Group and Stanford and build a global community of academic and industrial partners committed to the future of automotive research.”
The ongoing relationship between Volkswagen and Stanford University dates back to about 2005 and resulted in the creation of “Stanley”, an autonomous VW Touareg. The project was named the winner of the DARPA Grand Challenge and landed Stanley a spot in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Two years later, joint research by Stanford and Volkswagen researchers led to the creation of the aptly-named “Junior”. The re-engineered Volkswagen Passat took second prize in the2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.
Volkswagen’s Audi division has also created an autonomous TT-S. Volkswagen intends to put the vehicle’s capabilities to the ultimate test in 2010 by taking on one of the greatest challenges in motorsports – scaling the treacherous 12.42-mile course up Pike’s Peak.
Volkswagen’s latest investment at Stanford includes $2 million for the construction of new facilities and five annual installments of $750,000 to go toward research and instruction.
Stanford University School of Engineering’s dean, Jim Plummer says, “When the new building opens early next year, VAIL will provide a home on campus for faculty and students from around the university to work on advanced automotive research. Transportation is a globally important area in which engineers play a vital role.”
Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, the executive director of Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Laboratory says, “By partnering with a prestigious university such as Stanford, we’ve built a global community of academic and industry professionals that are committed to the future of automotive research.” Huhnke says the partnership “is intended to showcase the successful partnership between VW and Stanford that has helped drive automobile innovation into the future.”