Volkswagen will be entering a sensor-driven Passat this year in what it describes as "one of the world’s most unconventional car races".
The Darpa Urban Challenge invites teams to enter vehicles to race on a 60-mile course that will cover unknown territory and simulate urban driving conditions.
Cars will be aiming to set the fastest time without breaching traffic regulations and without a driver behind the wheel. Computers alone will be used to navigate the track, drive the cars and negotiate such tasks as merging into traffic and crossing roundabouts.
The Passat entered by Vauxhall will be fitted with electromechanical power steering, an electric accelerator pedal, a direct-shift gearbox and an electric handbrake.
Commenting on the challenge of the race, Dr Burkhard Huhnke, head of Volkswagen’s electronic research laboratory, said: "We see an opportunity to further advance intelligent technologies for use in passenger vehicles of the future.
"The features developed for the Urban Challenge will ultimately make driving safer and more enjoyable in today’s increasingly dense traffic."
In 2005 Volkswagen won the 132-mile Darpa Grand Challenge with a Touareg TDI, which was fitted with onboard sensors and navigation features and won the race without a single glitch.