ALUMNI SPEAKER SERIES "Autonomous Vehicles: The Hope and Hype of Self-Driving Cars"Export this event to calendar

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 — 1:00 PM EDT

UW Moose autonomous vehicle

Autonomous Vehicles: The Hope and Hype of Self-Driving Cars 

Thanks to the rapid progress and intense research of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and autonomous vehicles systems, the advancement of self-driving vehicles is becoming a reality. Will you be “driven” by an autonomous vehicle in your lifetime? What are the wicked problems of self-driving cars? How will these vehicles fare against Canadian winters? Will self-driving cars become a shared service instead of a personal purchase? Will autonomous vehicles improve the transportation sector’s environmental record including its contributions to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions? What technology are we waiting on? Join this webinar to learn about the future of self-driving vehicle as our panel of experts discuss the reality of autonomous vehicles from the research, industry and consumers’ point of view.   

The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions of the panel of experts.

A Zoom link will be sent to those who register for this session. 


Stefanie BruinsmaStefanie Bruinsma
BASc 2015, Mechanical Engineering
Manager of Industry Engagement
Engineering Research Office, University of Waterloo 

Stefanie Bruinsma manages industry engagement for the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Engineering Research Office. She has a lengthy and unique history within the automotive industry, becoming a licensed Automotive Technician in 2007 and building upon this with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Waterloo in 2015.

Stephanie was the team lead for the Green and Intelligent Automotive (GAIA) Facility at UWaterloo from its inception until 2019. Her experience includes managing powertrain dynamometer facilities, where Stefanie commissioned, launched, and operated test cells for vehicles, motors, engines, and batteries. Experienced in setting up numerous different test scenarios, she has worked on significant research projects with industry partners and advised Waterloo’s undergraduate automotive student competition teams.

In 2019, she transitioned to the role of manager, industry engagement for the Engineering Research Office at UWaterloo. Demonstrating her lifelong love of learning and constant drive to expand her knowledge base, she enrolled in the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) degree at UWaterloo, which she will complete in June 2021. She is also a Concept $5k and APEX pitch winner, whilst developing her Miss Mechanic expansion project which is currently in an active beta pilot. Currently registered with Professional Engineer’s Ontario (PEO) as an Engineer-in-Training (EIT), Stefanie expects to receive her Professional designation in 2021.

Panel Speakers: 

stephen smith headshotStephen L. Smith, PhD
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Autonomous Systems
University of Waterloo

Stephen L. Smith received his B.Sc. degree from Queen’s University, Canada, in 2003, his MASc degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, in 2005, and his PhD degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, in 2009.  He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Canada, where he holds a Canada Research Chair in Autonomous Systems.  He is also a faculty affiliate with the Vector Institute, in Toronto, Canada.  From 2009 to 2011 he was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Prof. Smith has received several awards including the Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation in 2016, the NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplement Award in 2015, and two Outstanding Performance Awards from the University of Waterloo.  He is a licensed Professional Engineer (PEng) with the Professional Engineers Ontario, a Senior Member of the IEEE, an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Control of Networks Systems, and a General Chair of the 2021 30th IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN).  His main research interests lie in control and optimization for autonomous systems, with a particular emphasis on robotic motion planning and coordination.

Lisa Aultman-Hall headshotLisa Aultman-Hall, PhD
Professor and Chair of the Department of Systems Design Engineering
University of Waterloo

Lisa Aultman-Hall is professor and chair of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada. Dr. Aultman-Hall focuses on transportation systems, especially methods to collect unique databases for modeling and analysis of long-distance travel, transportation sector emissions, network resiliency, streetscape design, and non-motorized transportation. Until recently, she served several leadership roles at the interdisciplinary University of Vermont Transportation Research Center. Dr. Aultman-Hall is active with the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies where recent roles include chairing the National Transportation Data Committee and the 2018 National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS) Conference. Dr. Aultman-Hall brings modeling of real-world spatial behavior to the modeling of charging demand for electric vehicles with the Joint Clean Climate Transport Research Partnership (JCCTRP) led by the University of Quebec at Montreal.  Her expertise in automated vehicles focuses on how they will be used for passenger travel including long-distance trips and elements of equitable access.

Amar Varma (BASc '99)Amar Varma
(BASc 1999, Electrical Engineering)
Co-Founder and COO
Autonomic Inc.

Amar Varma is a University of Waterloo educated, Silicon Valley trained engineer and entrepreneur based in Toronto. His career spans decades of intense and diverse industry experiences ranging from semiconductors, communication systems, cloud infrastructure, enterprise software, AI, security, crypto and apps.

Amar is also a second generation University of Waterloo alumni with his father, Nityanand Varma (Lifetime Alumni Achievement Medalist - MASc 1964, Civil Engineering; MASc 1970, Management Sciences). After graduating from Waterloo, Amar moved to Silicon Valley to work in the semiconductor industry where he was part of the team that brought USB 1.0 and voice over packet technologies to market. From these experiences he got the ultimate training for a lifelong ambition of making the world a better place through innovation. His next chapter included a stint working at a VC firm where he got to see the table from the other side completing providing him insights on both the company building and financing processes. 

In 2008, Amar founded Xtreme Labs, an apps development company. Xtreme Labs was on the cutting edge of developing mobile app development as the App Store was launched. Customers included Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Daimler the NFL and the NBA. The company scaled to hundreds of employees while being a top employer of University of Waterloo co-op students. The company was purchased in 2013 by Pivotal, a software cloud platform, where Amar became the GM of Mobile under the leadership of Paul Maritz. At Pivotal, Amar was an integral part of the growth of the company which led to its IPO (NYSE: PVTL) and subsequent acquisition by VMWare (NYSE: VMW).  

In 2016, Amar founded, a vehicle connectivity platform, with the vision to be an integral part of the autonomous vehicle solution. In 2017, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) announced that 100% of its vehicles would be connected to the Internet and subsequently acquired Autonomic.  Today, there are millions of vehicles connected to the platform processing billions of message per day.  

In conjunction with his entrepreneurial efforts, Amar is a prolific investor in early stage companies while working with entrepreneurs to share experiences, lessons learned and mistakes made. Outside of his career, Amar has a keen interest in leveraging technology to improve healthcare and endowed a research chair in AI & Bio Informatics at the Hospital for Sick Children.  

Other current interests include learning Mandarin & piano, indulging in learning the art of culinary experiences and exploring the science behind physical and mental health.

Amar currently resides in Toronto with family including three children.  

Please note: This session will be recorded with permission of the speakers and moderator and will be posted to view on the Alumni Speaker Playlist on the Waterloo Engineering YouTube Channel after the live session. Viewers do not have permission to record the session.