The automobile industry is in the midst of an early 21st century technological renaissance that is set to fundamentally change the way we approach transportation around the world. Over the past 6 months, there have been just over 350 in-demand job listings for highly skilled Autonomous Vehicle Engineers, and many other roles are popping up in support of autonomous vehicles. The skills these jobs need can vary from being very niche to being broad in experience. Companies around the globe have been buying up huge fleets of vehicles for the purpose of running autonomous vehicle experiments and tests in their local regions. All of these developments suggest that our world is on the verge of a major breakthrough in how we drive and travel.
Growth in Jobs/Demand for AV Engineers
But of course, autonomous vehicles are not going to build, design and program themselves. With great new technology comes great new demands, which has led to a jobs environment that has seen a huge amount of growth in the need for labor. With an average salary of $138,000 and huge signing bonuses accompanied with equity compensation, jobs in AV are set to play a huge part in the near future.
Some of these positions include:
- ADAS Security Consultants
- AV Simulation Engineers
- Digital Image Processing
- Predictive Analysis
- Embedded Engineers
- Localization Research Engineers
- Accident Management and Smart Contracts
- Planning and Robotics Engineers
- Sensor Fusion Algorithm Engineers
- Machine Learning Voice Recognition Expert
Many of these roles require someone with a Master’s Degree or PhD, but many of the companies hiring for highly technical roles will also have a need for support staff amongst their vehicle fleet operations.
The Skills You Need
For those who are interested in working on the development of autonomous vehicles in the future, the skills needed are a mixture of broad and narrow in scope. Some of the most popular programming languages for AV include C-based languages (C++, C#, Embedded-C) and Python, which also happens to be built on top of a C-based framework. C is also one of the most popular and in-demand programming languages for hardware and low-level software work. Along with this, more niche skills are needed such as experience with computer vision, robotics and simulation. With AVs heavily utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence in its development, the need for strong math and statistical skills is also a necessity. Knowledge of mechanics and the concepts of physics are also set to play a big factor in hiring. While these are just a few of the skills needed for highly technical AV roles, much of this expertise is going to be based around which company you are working at.
For instance, NVIDIA is a company that works with powerful computer components such as graphics cards and processors. AV Engineers interested in working at NVIDIA may want to focus their skillset more on working with System Architectures and CPU/GPU. Companies like Google, Uber, Mercedes and BMW are probably going to be more interested in hiring people who have experience with neural networks, deep/machine learning, sensor detection (for detection of traffic signs and lanes) and localization. These sorts of companies will probably be more interested in experience with Python due to its influence and impact on machine learning in the present day through frameworks such as Scikit-Learn and Pandas. With many different technologies being involved in AV work (such as LiDAR and IoT) the growth and innovation surrounding AV work will be very strong in the near future.
Facing Down the Problems of the Autonomous Vehicles Future
The regulatory rules for autonomous vehicles are still being deliberated over by local governments all around America and the globe. While there are hybridized solutions similar to AV currently on the market (such as Tesla’s autopilot mode), it is still far too early to allow for fully autonomous vehicles to operate on the road without assistance. According to SAE International, there are currently 6 levels of automation for describing a vehicle’s ability to operate autonomously:
While some of the lower levels of automation are already being utilized, experts such as Huei Peng, who is director of the Mobility Transformation Center at the University of Michigan, have determined that it will most likely be decades before a vehicle is able to operate completely independently (level 5) on any road without driver assistance or intervention. There are many environmental and internal problems that must be solved before AV will become a modern staple in everyday life.
For instance, how will a car be able to operate autonomously in the event of a heavy blizzard or storm moving through the area? Experts working on AV are going to have a big challenge ahead of them when it comes to solving these dilemmas of nature and planning. There is also the problem of software expertise that is going to need to be addressed. Working on AV is going to be an astronomical effort, as studies from the Government Accountability Office have shown. The number of lines of code required to develop a self-driving car is significantly higher than the amount of lines that go into the development of commercial aircraft or boat software.
This means developers are going to be paid big bucks to continuously work on these cars and upgrade them. It is going to require the absolute brightest minds in the software world to work on. There is also the problem of scale to address. The ratio of higher-end consumers to lower-end consumers may pose a problem for the affordability and maintenance of this new medium of transportation.
Over the span of the next few decades, we are going to be witnessing the rise of truly game-changing technology in the automobile world. It is going to change the way we approach transportation, ridesharing, city development/planning, and logistics. With autonomous vehicles giving birth to innovative new concepts such as Robotaxi’s, self-driving trucks and buses, our world is going to face a huge change in how we go about our days. 100 years ago, we saw the beginning of widespread automobile adoption in everyday society. 100 years later, we are in the midst of the early days of the autonomous vehicle revolution.