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Driverless Shuttle Rolls Through Sac State Campus

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SACRAMENTO--

Sitting in the driver's seat of what looks like an expensive golf cart, Brandon Moak is touring the Sac Stats campus.

"It's really big, a lot of open area," Moak said.

To a passerby, the young-looking Moak could easily be confused for another high school senior trying to figure out which college may be best for his or her future.

Of course fans of the movie "Van Wilder" have no issue with a student using a golf cart to get from class to class, but that's not what Moak is here for.

He and his partner Mike Reid are Canadian transplants living in Mountain View.

Monday and Tuesday, they'll be on campus to test and show-off the very vehicle Moak is sitting in.

Technically, it's not a golf cart, it's a shuttle, and although he's in the drivers seat Moak is just along for the ride - no need for a person behind the wheel when it doesn't have one.

To be really technical, Moak is sitting in "Alvin," a driverless vehicle he and his engineering team created in their native Canada before moving to the Bay Area.

Using a mixture of a $30,000 GPS and Lydar - yes, the same Lydar that is used when a cop pulls you over for speeding - "Alvin" is able to seamlessly and more importantly autonomously navigate a pre-destined path around a crowded area just outside the schools book store.

"Sac State is really a good proving ground because of its size. It's exactly what we were looking for during testing," Ried said.

Unlike other driverless cars "Alvin" was not made for the highway, so the regulations governed by the DMV do not apply.

"That will really speed up the process of making it commercially available some day," Reid said.

Five-miles-an-hour is its top speed while on campus, not fast, but very efficient.

"Alvin" is able to brake on a dime with a Lydar detection of an object in its way at only six feet.

Moak, Reid and others at Varden Labs anticipate assisted living and private communities to among its first clients, as well as academic and business campuses.

If testing goes well Varden Labs says it could give schools like Sac State an "Alvin" of their own to further testing before it's made commercially available.