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Self-driving vehicle demonstration in honor of National Engineers Week

Fresno State engineering students, Mary Castro and Victor E. Bulldog III took rides in a self-driving, electric shuttle Tuesday, Feb. 23 in honor of 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.”

The shuttle is a product of Varden Labs, a startup company in Silicon Valley. Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Varden Labs is a mechatronics engineer and entrepreneur from Ontario, Canada has nearly 10 years of experience building robotic systems also spoke to attendees of the event.

“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.”

The shuttle is about the size of a golf cart and can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, but reached about 10 miles per hour on Tuesday.

“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.”