Volkswagen of America announced a contribution of US$5.75 million to Stanford University to create the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL), on the Stanford University campus, and a new program for supporting automotive teaching and research. The VAIL and corresponding CarLab research and teaching program housed at VAIL, will help to accelerate automotive-related research on campus by increasing the opportunities for collaborations between VW and Stanford and by building a global community of academic and industrial partners committed to the future of automotive research. “The VAIL will be a solid foundation on which Volkswagen researchers and Stanford scientists will be able to find new ways to explore automotive technology,” Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, executive director, Electronics Research Laboratory, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “The work done at VAIL will help to further develop the future of mobility and autonomous driving that we started with our partnership on the DARPA Grand Challenge vehicles, Stanley and Junior.” Volkswagen will donate $2 million to Stanford to construct the building housing VAIL and will provide $750,000 a year for five years to fund research and teaching activities in Stanford’s CarLab, an interdisciplinary research center, based at VAIL. “The success of Junior and Stanley in the DARPA Grand Challenge events show that when Stanford collaborates with great partners in industry, such as Volkswagen, we can create significant new technologies,” says Jim Plummer, dean of Stanford Engineering. “Transportation is a vital part of life and our goal as engineers is to find innovative ways to meet important human needs.” Volkswagen and Stanford University’s collaboration started with the two highly-successful vehicles in the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge races with a first place win in the 2005 Grand Challenge and a second-place finish at the recent 2007 Urban Challenge event in Victorville, CA. “The initial focus for VAIL will be vehicle safety, mobility and environmental performance,” said Plummer. “Already signed up for space in the facility are the research groups of computer science and electrical engineering Professor Sebastian Thrun, leader of the Stanford Racing Team that fielded Junior and Stanley; mechanical engineering Associate Professor Chris Gerdes, whose research group is studying cleaner combustion and advanced vehicle dynamics control; and communication department Professor Clifford Nass, whose research studies the psychology of making cars safer and more enjoyable.” The VAIL facility will be housed in a new 8,000 square-foot lab. The facility will include shared high-bay space with lifts, machine and composite shops, and meeting rooms. It will also include outdoor test-driving space. “While the VAIL is the physical home for vehicle research, CarLab is the intellectual community it houses,” says Chris Gerdes, director, CarLab. “The mission of CarLab will be to radically rethink the automobile in order to deliver unprecedented levels of safety and driver and passenger enjoyment.” “The work done at VAIL and in the CarLab will engage the entire Stanford community and a number of industrial partners and will generate research and teaching opportunities that are both interdisciplinary and real-world in nature,” said Plummer. “We look forward to having a state-of-the-art facility for vehicle research on campus, where students can help develop the next several generations of automotive transportation.” Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany.