What Tesla, Lyft, Other Auto-Tech Firms Pay Software Engineers

For technology companies focused on “disrupting” the auto industry, the past few years have been tough. The COVID-19 pandemic crushed the market for ride-sharing; meanwhile, solving the technology issues around autonomous driving have proven far more difficult than executives expected. These companies need their technologists more than ever to solve big problems and spark demand—but does that translate into substantial salaries?

For an answer, we turn to levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation. We chose to examine Cruise, Tesla, Uber, and Lyft, all of which have been experimenting with how to best leverage technology to improve how we get around. As you might expect, entry-level software engineers at all these companies receive healthy mixes of salary, stock, and bonuses:

In other words, if you’re a technologist interested in working on projects at the cutting edge of transportation, all these companies pay well (especially if you have specialized skills, such as artificial intelligence (A.I.) or machine learning). The bigger question is what interests you—if you want to work on automobile hardware or dashboard systems, for example, Tesla is probably your best bet, but if you’re interested in predicting how cars move through cities, you’re likely better-suited for a gig with Uber or Lyft.

For those interested in a management track, these companies also tend to pay their software engineering managers a good deal. A solid manager can mean the difference between failure and world-changing success, especially for tricky projects such as autonomous driving. Although it hasn’t officially entered the car market yet, for example, Apple has reportedly shifted through several managers for its top-secret automobile project. If you have project-management skills, consider this path. 

The competition for talent in this segment has always been fierce; back in 2015, for example, Uber infamously poached numerous software developers and other technologists from Carnegie Mellon for its autonomous-driving project, which it had set up in a Pittsburgh facility. As automobiles become more software-dependent, trust that the demand for specialized talent will only increase, which could result in some very big paydays. In order to land a lucrative role, though, you need to have the right skills, as well as the aptitude for working with highly customized systems. Good luck!