Watch out Stanley, here comes Junior

With the slow vehicle passing and a 50mph speed limit, the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge didn't entirely seem to set the stage technologically for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, but get ready, Stanford's already prepping, their entrant: Junior. The Volkswagen Passat wagon will be equipped with a 360-degree laser rangefinder, bumper mounted lasers, RADAR, GPS, a network of systems and software powered by Core 2 Duo processors, and hopefully also spinners to distract the competition's junk-ass rides. Junior's mission, if you choose to recall it: drive a simulated urban course 60 miles long; it must obey California state traffic laws, it must not crash, it must be able to operate without GPS, and it must run the course entirely without human input. The $2m at stake for first place is probably not nearly enough to immediately recoup the costs of a bunch of braniac grad students hacking complex AI algos, but it could be the icing on the cake for the current favorite after 2005's Grand Challenge was routed by Junior's pappy, Stanley.

P.S. -CNET has some early pics of Junior's interior and such, check 'em out.