There’s no turning back. Self-driving technology and electrification are revolutionising the automotive industry. Autonomous vehicle software is at the heart of this once-in-a-lifetime revolution, and constant improvement in machine learning is accelerating change. Recent boundless progress in computing power and cloud services means this industry evolution doesn’t look set to stop anytime soon.
So as the industry evolves, where are the opportunities for software developers?
Engineers with expertise and experience in machine learning, AI, deep learning and robotics are in high demand by AV companies. Many of the big names are hiring extensively right now, and it’s no secret that there’s a shortage of engineers. Many software developers have upskilled quickly to move into the sector. There’s also a huge opportunity for those without a software development or computer science background who are able to pivot into AV software development.
The number one skill that tends to come up in job specs is “outstanding problem solving”. This opens the door for those with a background in physics, mathematics and related fields. Many developers find themselves getting hands on with the hardware used on vehicles as well as writing code. Sounds like fun? Check out this day-in-the-life account of an autonomous vehicle software developer at Jaguar Land Rover.
How to Pivot into the Autonomous Vehicle sector
In recent years, many universities have started offering courses focused on the skills required for building autonomous vehicles software. The US and China are leading the way in traditional third level courses, with others in places such as Oxford in the UK. The automotive powerhouse that is Germany also has plenty of partnerships between 3rd level and industry.
Many of the automotive giants such as Daimler-Bosch, BMW, Volkswagen, Land Rover Jaguar, Volvo, Ford and Renault are taking a long-term view and are investing in medium and longer term talent attraction and training programmes, as well as investing in new geographies in order to access talent pools. Companies such as Google’s Waymo and Baidu in China are hoovering up engineers.
Of course there is a huge demand for specialist developer roles including QAs and DevOps, as well as data scientists.
For those looking to upskill or change career while being kind to their bank balance, there are some great options online through Udacity, Coursera and Udemy among others. Check out this great article by George Sung about how he changed career and became an AV engineer at BMW.
What does the future look like?
It’s still early days for the AV industry, and regulation is struggling to keep pace with advances in technology. It’s safe to say there will be profound impacts on society over the coming two decades.
In the short-term we’ll start seeing autonomous vehicles integrate and feature more in our current systems. For example, in 2019 we’ll see further progress in driverless vehicle testing. The UK is hoping to lead the way by introducing legislation that allows vehicles to be tested without drivers in place to hit the brakes if the car does something it shouldn’t do. It’s a safe bet that many more will follow soon after.
In the medium to long-term we hope to see autonomous vehicles fulfil their potential to vastly reduce the number of road accidents, revolutionise parking, eradicate traffic jams and radically change how we experience driving – although perhaps ”being driven” might be a more accurate phrase. Check out Ben Evans’ view on what will happen with AV over the next ten years.