Skip to main content


WAVE when you see Mendoza coming

Diego Mendoza gets a lot of waves – stares – from passers-by these days in Whitby, but the recent Ontario Tech graduate (’21) in automotive engineering enjoys the attention. It’s all part of his job as a safety attendant for the Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric (WAVE) shuttle as the eight-person pilot-project vehicle – four riders during COVID -- undergoes road testing along a 10-stop route.

“I’m the onboard safety attendant, serving as the safety net for the shuttle because there are things that require an operator to do a manual override,” says Mendoza. “I tell people I’m the driver for a bus that drives itself.”

The inaugural phase of the WAVE shuttle project involves nearly a dozen partners from across the transportation, high-tech innovation, government and academic communities, with Ontario Tech providing autonomous vehicle (AV) maintenance through the university’s Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE). Mendoza works for Autoguardian, a division of the company overseeing the project, SmartCone Inc. The company created WAVE’s intelligent safety infrastructure solution and Internet-of-Things software platform.

“I’m excited by the technology, although there’s still more work to do,” says Mendoza. “This is a great first step and I’m so lucky to be part of it. In the next 10 to 15 years, we’ll be seeing a lot of autonomous vehicles on the road.”

As he rides the WAVE, he collects data that will help the partners determine if the shuttle is a viable option to connect people to a larger transportation hub – in this case, the Whitby GO station.

“We’ll see if it’s a good investment for transportation agencies,” Mendoza says.

The position should certainly be a good career investment for Mendoza, even though his degree is more oriented toward mechanical engineering. He considers himself very adaptable and open to learning. In fact, he began his university career in forensics before making the switch to engineering, a program that taught him how valuable it is to be able to translate technical information into layperson’s terms.

“If you can do that in engineering, it’s a huge advantage,” he says. “For instance, there’s the possibility of moving into technical sales. Working for a startup, there’s a lot of room for growth, and the Internet of Things is where the future is going.”

Mendoza is undoubtedly on the road to success – both literally and figuratively.

By Elaine Smith