Many roads lead to a career in the self-driving car industry. That painfully obvious pun is actually one of the truest things you can say about this nascent, multidisciplinary enterprise, and it also encapsulates the challenge educators who want to prepare their students to work in this industry are facing today.
“There’s a misconception that there’s such a thing as ‘self-driving car technology,’” says Sudha Jamthe, who designed and teaches the first autonomous vehicles business course for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program. “But the self-driving car has many, many layers of tech—of software, of engineering, and design—which is the beauty of it.
People working in this industry have a wide range of skills and experience.” Sudha Jamthe Predictions about when self-driving cars will take over our streets and highways vary widely, but Alexander Wyglinski, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, says these yet-to-go-mainstream machines are generating real opportunities today for job seekers with the right combinations of qualifications.
“What people in this industry are looking for depends a lot on the company,” Wyglinski says. “There are the Teslas, Waymos and Ubers of the world—companies looking to get self-driving vehicles on the road in two or three years. There are the startup companies trying to figure out what the next generation is going to look like. And there are companies working on systems that will go into self-driving cars—new radar and lidar systems, new decision-making algorithms and software, and new mechanical components for these vehicles.”
One thing all of those companies seem to have in common, says John M. Dolan, principal systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and a self-driving vehicle researcher in the school’s Robotics Institute , is the value they place on employees with that broad skill set.
“Generally speaking, it’s not enough […]