Fresno State engineering students, President Joseph I. Castro and Victor E. Bulldog III will take rides in a self-driving, electric shuttle at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, outside the Engineering East building on campus.
Students, faculty and staff will be on-hand for demonstrations of the four-passenger, autonomous shuttle. The shuttle is a product of Varden Labs, a startup company in Silicon Valley.
The demonstration is part of a series of events hosted by the Lyles College of Engineering at Fresno State to commemorate National Engineers Week, Feb. 21 to 27.
“The innovations in engineering are leading to new products and services for better living,” said Dr. Ram Nunna, dean of the Lyles College. “Autonomous or self-driving vehicles are going to be part of the future of transportation, and we would like our students to become aware of the progress in new technologies and also be part of this growing industry.”
After the demonstration, students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to join Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Varden Labs, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the North Gym (Room 118). Rodrigues will discuss the autonomous transportation industry and provide an overview of the technology. The event will be followed by a question and answer session.
Rodrigues is a mechatronics engineer and entrepreneur from Ontario, Canada who has nearly 10 years of experience building robotic systems. He has worked at various software companies, including Khan Academy, and led two teams to win the 2012 and 2013 international FIRST Robotics Competition.
“I think that autonomous transportation will be the biggest revolution since the internet,” Rodrigues said. “It will become safer, cheaper and better for the environment. Working on self-driving shuttles is a way to allow us to be a part of and hopefully catalyze this revolution.”
Self-driving shuttle rides will be open for students, faculty and staff from 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, and from 9 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24, outside the Engineering East building. Varden Labs will be gathering information for its pilot research project, which focuses on testing the vehicle in real-world scenarios to determine the long-term applications.
The shuttle is about the size of a golf cart and can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, but will be travel about 10 miles per hour for the pilot project.
“Varden Labs shuttles will facilitate mobility over short distances within municipalities, on university campuses and in retirement communities,” Rodrigues said. “The ultimate goal is to provide a solution to the last-mile problem in transportation.”