Two Waterloo engineering students have completed an Enterprise Co-op term by creating the first autonomous vehicle to drive on a Canadian road.

Michael Skupien and Alex Rodrigues, founders of Varden Labsdeveloped the autonomous shuttle during an e-co-op term, a signature program run through Waterloo’s Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre. In e-co-op, students launch businesses while earning a co-operative education credit. Both Skupien and Rodrigues are second-year students in Waterloo's Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering program.

President Hamdullahpur rides in the self-driving car

Varden Labs won $35,000 at the Velocity Fund Finals recently and both Rodriques and Skupien are living in the Velocity Residence, a dorm for Waterloo students who are building companies. The team members hope their technology will power fully autonomous electric shuttles that can be used on university campuses, corporate campuses and in retirement communities around the world.

"We've been in the Velocity program for more than a year now and it's been an amazing experience, says Rodrigues. “Over time, experiences, connections and interactions have helped us do amazing things as entrepreneurs.”

Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, was the first passenger in the milestone ride around campus held on Tuesday August 18.

Says Hamdullahpur,

I am so pleased for these bright, ambitious students as they take this next important step in the development of their impressive invention. Waterloo encourages this kind of innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit, and so it is thrilling for us when we can witness students like Alex and Michael embark on their own exciting journey. 

I liked riding in their vehicle so much that I wish I had one for facing traffic on the 401 to Toronto." 

Watch the video of the first autonomous vehicle to drive on a Canadian road.