Learning the Tools to Build Self-Driving Cars

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Interested in breaking into the nascent self-driving car industry? A new online course could give you the tools necessary to train automobiles how to drive themselves.

Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree requires students to have experience in Python “or another scripting language,” according to the course Website. A background in probability, statistics, and calculus is also necessary. The coursework, which will take a year to complete, includes interactive projects in “computer vision, robotic controls, localization, path planning, and more.”

As with any nascent industry, autonomous-driving development demands tech professionals who can think on their feet, plotting innovative solutions to emerging questions. A foundation in programming or robotics could also help any aspiring professionals truly stand out. If you feel you already have the necessary background to land a job in the field, start by reviewing postings for autonomous-car jobs and see which desired skill-sets overlap with yours.

A number of major tech firms have already set up labs devoted to autonomous driving. Uber and Google recently started up research facilities in Pittsburgh and Detroit, respectively; Tesla has integrated a self-driving option into its vehicles’ onboard systems, although a recent death has raised questions about the wisdom of releasing that technology onto the open road. Apple is also reportedly interested in a self-driving vehicle, although it may not hit the road before 2021 at the earliest.

In coming years, the software piloting cars and trucks will only become more sophisticated—and safer. “As more real-world miles accumulate and the software logic accounts for increasingly rare events, the probability of injury will keep decreasing,” read a recent posting on Tesla’s official blog. “Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.”

All of which is to say, it’s still early days for self-driving vehicles, with lots of opportunities to break into the industry. Whether you choose formal course-work, or study on your own, you can learn the technical skills necessary to make cars smarter.

Image Credit: Chesky/Shutterstock.com

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