Interest in self-driving cars has never been higher, but those without the proper pedigree to work in the industry are struggling to find a path in. Automotive News spoke with engineers enrolled in Udacity’s self-driving engineer course to understand the motivations and histories behind these non-traditional engineers wanting to break into the autonomous scene. Click here to read more about how a pipeline for engineers can be built.
Engineer models path from hobbyist to self-driving cars
Name: Joshua Smith
Occupation: Mechanical engineer, 9 years of experience
Joshua Smith is no stranger to the automotive world. Although the mechanical engineer works in the fitness equipment industry, after graduating from the University of Utah, he was employed by a boutique racing firm run by a husband-and-wife team who are former auto executives.
Now, Smith is enrolled in Udacity’s self-driving car engineering course through which he hopes to connect with a new passion in his work.
“As an engineer in a long-established field, it is exciting to think about being on the leading edge of an emerging industry,” Smith wrote in a survey of aspiring self-driving car engineers administered by Automotive News. “I deeply miss learning.”
The course includes lessons in computer vision and machine learning -- coding-heavy concentrations of robotics.
“I’ve always been really interested in programming, but it’s always been just a hobby,” Smith said.
He messes around with wires and sensors on little projects in his daily life. For instance, he regularly rides his bicycle to work and stores his belongings in a locker. He noticed that his cycling outfit, wet with sweat from his ride, was not drying properly through the day. As a solution, he jury-rigged a humidity sensor in the locker that would detect moisture and enable a fan to dry his belongings.
But Smith’s aspirations may not lead him back to the auto industry.
“In the end I’m really hoping that I can do something else with it, but I don’t know what that is yet,” said Smith. But he does have one stipulation.
“I’m hoping to apply it to something new.”
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