Tesla’s long-awaited Model 3, the mass-market version of its electric luxury car, is a massive bet not only for the company and CEO Elon Musk, but the relatively nascent electric-car industry as a whole.
The Model 3’s most basic version will retail for $35,000 before tax credits, and offer a range of roughly 215 miles per charge. Hours before the vehicle’s March 31 unveiling, customers lined up outside of Tesla’s stores to place their names on the pre-order list, but longer-term demand is harder to estimate; Musk has made no secret of his intention to sell hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year.
If the Model 3 proves a sustaining success, it could have a sizable impact on both the automotive and technology industries, which may translate into more opportunities for certain specialists.
For example, consider autonomous driving, a feature that may eventually become standard in most automobiles. Last year, a report by Boston-based Lux Research suggested that the self-driving car industry would generate $87 billion worth of value by 2030. As Tesla has already demonstrated, tweaking a few algorithms can not only boost battery life and mileage, but even allow an electric vehicle to park itself. In order for seamless, accident-free autonomous driving to become a reality, though, automobile companies such as Tesla and Ford will need to hire lots of software developers in coming years.
When it comes to technologists and software developers breaking into the car business, a background in robotics or embedded systems isn’t always necessary. That’s what Mark Cunningham, owner and primary account manager for recruiting firm The Bidding Network, told Dice late last year: “Anyone with a degree in computer or electrical engineering or computer science who is smart, technically sound and a real doer should have no trouble getting an employer’s attention.”
But that’s just for starters. If you want to specialize in a particular aspect of next-gen car manufacturing, you’ll need some very specific skills. For example, autonomous driving engineers have backgrounds in algorithm validation methods, building software to process sensor data (which may require knowledge of programming languages such as C++ and MATLAB), and automating functional tests for software components.
If you’re interested in electric vehicles, self-driving software, and other elements of the automotive industry’s (increasingly rapid) evolution, the next few years could see a bloom in the number of available jobs—especially if Tesla’s Model 3 succeeds with the general public, and helps kick off a new era of cars as four-wheeled software platforms.