Over the past few years, Tesla and other firms have managed to create quite the buzz around autonomous driving. If they succeed in building cars truly capable of navigating from Point A to B without human intervention, it could change the world in seismic ways. Imagine long convoys of driverless trucks delivering packages 24 hours a day, or cars that can cruise for hours while their human owners sleep.
That world-altering potential (not to mention the stratospheric profits) has persuaded technology professionals around the world to explore the creation of autonomous-vehicle platforms as a career. There’s just one little caveat: given the immense time and effort needed to learn the skills that undergird autonomous revolution, and the relatively few companies actually involved in building self-driving platforms, there’s always the chance that tech pros interested in the field won’t land a job.
Which leads to a big question: are the skills that go into autonomous driving transferrable to other types of technology?
The answer is “yes.”
First, there’s the possibility that tech companies will begin using that technology to automate other products. “Autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors during an August 1 earnings call. “A vehicle is only one, but there are many different areas of it. And I don’t want to go any further than that.”
Apple is reportedly investing substantial sums in developing autonomous technologies beyond automobiles—which means, of course, that other tech companies are, too. The result for tech pros is pretty clear: lots of industrial and consumer hardware going autonomous means more project opportunities, even if you’re not interested in cars.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of options out there for learning about autonomous technologies; for example, Udacity offers a self-driving car engineer nanodegree. Other schools have courses on machine learning, artificial intelligence, image processing, and other skills that will prove vital to everything autonomy-related, from sensor-building to object detection. Robotics skills will help, as well.
In any case, it looks like the autonomous-hardware industry has nowhere to go but up—even if it takes a little time for the streets to fill with self-driving cars.