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Google Maps Enlists Robot Car

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Those who worry about Google’s impending world domination are probably going to be terrified, but for the rest of us, this is just neat: the search engine giant has made a deal that involves Stanley, the robot car that won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.

“Google has quietly licensed the sensing technology developed by a team of Stanford University students that enabled Stanley, a Volkswagon Touareg R5, to win,” reports Elise Ackerman of the Mercury News.

Stanley is no speed demon – he (or, more properly, “it”) averaged just 20 MPH as it ran the 132-mile race.  But the unmanned vehicle managed to stay on course and avoid all serious obstacles, and it’s in these abilities that Google’s interest lies.

Now, don’t fret – the streets won’t be filled with driverless cars bearing the Google logo.  But vehicles outfitted with Stanley’s sensor arrays (and operated by human beings) could greatly enhance both the accuracy and the detail of Google Maps.

“The technology will enable Google to map out photo-realistic 3-D versions of cities around the world,” writes Ackerman, “and possibly regain ground it has lost to Microsoft’s 3-D mapping application known as Virtual Earth.”

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the search engine company isn’t just getting a pile of wires – Sebastian Thrun, who led the Stanford Racing Team to victory and serves as director of Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and leader of the Stanford Racing Team, will work part-time at Google.

Look for more information to be released on May 29 or 30, at the 2007 Where 2.0 Conference in San Jose.

Google Maps Enlists Robot Car
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