Autonomous technology is on the rise, with self-driving cars and autonomous planes poised to disrupt their respective industries. Autonomous vehicles are becoming more commonplace every day, with debates about their safety filling the news.
As a relatively new field, autonomous vehicles require new skills to help move it forward. Engineering is changing, and keeping up with the latest demands is the only way to stay employable in this dynamic sector. So what skills go into building an autonomous car?
Skills You’ll Need to Work on A Driverless Car
1. Programming Skills
There are around 250 million lines of code in the hardware of an autonomous vehicle, responsible for its ‘understanding’ of the world and what’s around it. Beyond that, there are multiple different programmes and platforms used in the design, construction and operation of an autonomous vehicle. Code is vital for someone working on an autonomous vehicle, as even if you’re not directly involved with the software, having a complete understanding of how the whole system works means you can better interact and work with different elements of that system.
The different programmes must all have cohesion when it comes to the smooth operation of such a complicated and potentially dangerous machine, so the language of code is of paramount importance. Extensive C++, Python and Linux experience are all virtually non-negotiable when it comes to working in the autonomous industry.
2. Robotics and Electrical Engineering
While a self-driving car is at its heart a vehicle, it is also a kind of robot. It has a function it was designed specifically to complete, fulfils that purpose and can do it on command. In this sense, self-driving cars are robots, and robots require a very specific skillset to work on. Robotics engineers work with both hardware and software, electrical systems, communications systems and the real-world dynamics of movement.
In autonomous vehicles, all these different elements work together to create a picture of what surrounds the vehicle, determine what to do and then to take that action.
3. Machine Learning/AI
Since autonomous vehicles work through algorithms, those algorithms can be constantly updated and refined. This is often done through machine learning, which can analyse data from all the cars in an autonomous fleet or across a model and make improvements based upon how those cars have operated in certain situations.
MIT even has an online course about deep learning in autonomous vehicles.
4. Traditional Automotive Engineering Skills
Traditional electrical engineering and design skills will always be in demand, no matter what sector of engineering you work in. Autonomous vehicles, though more advanced than traditional models, are still cars at their core, so all the skills that have been useful in car manufacturing for the last hundred years are still useful today.
Autonomous Vehicles: A Rapidly Changing and Exciting Sector
Digital design programmes will allow you to pioneer new ideas and concepts and allow you to show off your creative flair. Augmented reality will soon become a major component of the design process, and already is at some companies to help show the car in more detail by giving additional information about each component.
The physical ability to build a car is one that many critics say will soon be irrelevant with the advent of robot workers. However, any engineering job will always require the ability to take things apart, put them back together and make them better – a skill only humans can master.