Interview with Deniz Akyıldız (Hardware Team)

 1. Quick introduction of yourself!!

My name is Deniz Akyildiz, I am a 3rd year Electrical Engineering student and a member of the hardware team in aUToronto. I have a passion for robotics and that is what I am focusing on in my studies, specifically control and software.


2. Why aUToronto?

I first received an email from the faculty about a new self-driving car team in, I guess it was May 2017. Back then I was a first year and did not really know what I wanted to do, but a self-driving car team sounded very interesting. I mean, you are literally making history when you think about it. You are building something that is not built before and I thought that is how you have a positive impact on humanity. That is why I joined aUToronto and have been trying my best since the team started. 


3. What is your role in the team? What is your goal for this year?

I’ve been a member of the hardware team since the very beginning of this journey. What we do as the hardware team is to make sure all the sensors are working and implemented as planned. This includes synchronization of the sensors, powering the sensors, transferring the data from sensors to our server, and designing and building the mounts for these sensors. I focus more on the electrical side, specifically the data and power. Our goal for this year is to get all the new sensors for the second year, in addition to the ones we used last year, up and running as soon as possible so the rest of the team can iterate on what they are planning to do with the sensors. Meanwhile we are planning to build a more robust system by using some PCBs.


4. How did your experience help you with working in the industry?

Last summer I was an intern at NVIDIA’s Autonomous Vehicles team. I can comfortably say that my experience with aUToronto was extremely useful in the industry. I think having a chance to work in a field like this outside of the industry is very rare, and University of Toronto is one of the few universities where you can get your hands on a self-driving car. I find myself lucky to be part of this team and this university.


5. What inspires you in daily life? What is your passion?

I love challenges. I like solving unique problems by trying new methods. My inspiration is the progress humanity made, and I would like to contribute to this. Who would think we would be working on self-driving cars fifty years ago? This incredible advancement is my source of inspiration.


6. What are your hobbies outside of work, or school?

I love playing chess. I try to go to the events and play casually, but sometimes I do not have time for it. I have been playing basketball for a long time and I really enjoy watching soccer. Go Beşiktaş!

- Interviewed by Syed Rafi Tanzim

Informational Interview with Ragavan Thurairatnam, Co-Founder of

Ragavan has over 5 years of experience designing and deploying deep learning for enterprises from diverse industry sectors, ranging from agriculture to finance. Passionate about taking Canada’s AI industry to the next level, Ragavan designs and builds deep learning solutions that drive business value for enterprises around the world. Ragavan led’s recent development of the world’s first deep learning system for retail banking at Scotiabank, which has already saved the bank millions of dollars. Ragavan learned the ropes of entrepreneurship at Canada’s prestigious NEXT 36 program, where he was mentored by some of the world’s leading business experts. He also studied Computer Engineering at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, where he graduated at the top of his class.

Interview with Adam El-Masri

Interview with Adam El-Masri

Adam El-Masri, Co-Simulation & Experimentation Lead for aUToronto, is a software engineer with a wide variety of experience working at various projects and companies. He is also currently a teaching assistant at University of Toronto, and a founder of a non-for-profit organization in social innovation. Adam is inspired by the potential of his work to make the world a better place, particularly his work with self-driving cars.

Interview with Keenan Burnett

Interview with Keenan Burnett

Keenan Burnett is the Technical Team Lead for aUToronto. He is also a Master of Applied Science at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies under the supervision of Professors Angela Schoellig and Tim Barfoot. His research interests are in control systems design, computer vision, and self-driving cars.


Q: What is your motivation to be the Technical Team Lead of aUToronto?

AUToronto Information Session

aUToronto is hosting an information session for leaders to introduce their team responsibilities and talk with the students. If you are interested in finding out the what we are doing now and how to potentially get involved, come join us on Sep 22nd! 

Date: September 22nd
Start Time: 6 p.m. 
Location: SF 1105

Register through Facebook Event page at

aUToronto Weekly Update (Aug 29th)

The Autonomy team is preparing for data collection next week. They will collect data that can be used for both sensor calibration and testing autonomy algorithms. Furthermore, they are also making progress on various topics such as object tracking, lane detection and path tracking control.

The Software team is currently working on interfacing with hardware systems including bumblebee, velodyne and CAN, with the help from the Autonomy team. 

The Hardware team has been working towards refining the power and communication interface & strategy for Zeus, as well as sourcing off-the-shelf components. They are also in the process of reviewing the current version of the electrical hardware design with engineers from GM. 

The System team is finalizing the JIRA task tracking system and loading in the first set of tasks. They have decided to follow an Agile methodology with two-week long sprint cycles. Each sprint cycle will result in a demonstrable capability on the vehicle!