Who is Behind the Wheel?

There may be no hands on the wheel in the future

by Stuart Livesey

How many times have you come up behind a car on the highway and found that you couldn’t really see anyone in the driver’s seat? Thankfully that’s usually because the driver may be a little vertically challenged but if you were to come up behind this this 2006 VW Passat wagon you just might find that there’s no one behind the wheel.

Stanford University's robot car

Meet Junior Stanford University’s latest venture into robotically driven motor vehicles. Last year there was Stanley – Stanford’s winning entry in the annual Grand Challenge run by the Defense Andvanced Research Projects Agency.

The challenge was to build an autonomously controlled vehicle that could cross 211 km of rugged desert terrain and after several years of trying Stanford University was the first entrant to meet the challenge. For that they used a VW Toureg.

This year the challenge is to build an autonomously controlled vehicle that can navigate through city streets while other vehicles are moving around it. That’s something that we humans do every day; we absorb information from a myriad of information through our eyes, ears and other senses too.

We take all that information and process it in an incredibly short time and we go on doing that every second that we’re out there on the road. To us it’s really not much at all but try and build a computer and all the sensory equipment it needs to do that and you will see what the engineers at Stanford are up against.


Who is Behind the Wheel?
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