Preview story: For two days this month, Sacramento State students, faculty, and staff will get to ride an electric, self-driving shuttle between certain points on campus.

The two-day demonstration runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 14-15 and is sponsored by Varden Labs, a Canadian company that has developed autonomous vehicle (AV) technology. The company is conducting similar sessions on several campuses, not only to demonstrate the vehicle’s capabilities, but also to allow Varden representatives to observe how individuals interact with it.

“It’s principally a demonstration of the technology,” says Tony Lucas, senior director of University Transportation and Parking Services (UTAPS).

shuttle on campus(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

The shuttle is a small, enclosed vehicle about the size of a golf cart. The Sac State model will run a short route between Serna Plaza and the circle at the steps of the Guy West Bridge near Riverside Hall. The vehicle differs from a Google car in that it doesn’t figure out its own path, but will be programmed with the routing. It will be able to negotiate any obstacles that come up.

The demonstration also will have a direct benefit for students interested in engineering and traffic planning. Kevan Shafizadeh, interim associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and civil engineering Professor Ghazan Khan will have a number of students on hand to view and study the demonstration.

“I suspect part of the reason Varden Labs is coming here to demonstrate this technology is because California is a hotbed for AV development in terms of transportation engineering, planning, and public policy,” Shafizadeh says.

Civil engineering students may be interested in how the technology can affect the design of transportation facilities for a range of different users, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

Electric and electronic engineering students may be interested in learning more about the vehicle sensing and controlling technology.

Varden representatives also will host a seminar for Sac State’s Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), a student group focused on promoting transportation engineering education and professional development.

For more information on the vehicle, visit www.vardenlabs.com. – Craig Koscho


In the media:

"Could Sacramento State use driverless shuttles on campus?" The Sacramento Bee

"Sacramento State students ride in self-driving shuttle to get to class," Capital Public Radio

"Driverless shuttle rolls through Sacramento State campus," Fox 40

"Self-driving shuttle at Sac State," "Good Day Sacramento" on Channel 31