Coursera and the University of Toronto roll out autonomous cars specialization

By , VentureBeat

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) students partial to machine learning, buckle up: The University of Toronto wants to inculcate you with driverless car engineering knowledge. Coursera, the online learning platform founded by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, today announced that it’s teaming up with the U of T to offer a Self-Driving Cars specialization, which it claims is the first of its kind.

The timing is ripe for an autonomous cars curriculum, according to Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, who noted that by some estimations, over 20 million self-driving cars will hit public roads by 2030.

“Autonomous vehicles are a well-established vision for the future of transportation. With new, exciting self-driving projects continuing to develop, from companies like Google to General Motors, the industry is expected to explode in the next decade,” Maggioncalda said.

The new course has enrollees experiment with datasets from autonomous cars and deploy them within a simulated 3D environment — one complete with cars, pedestrians, trees, and weather. Throughout, students get access to real-time data from cameras, lidar, GPS, and other sensors, and learn how to complete tasks like implementing object detection and visual perception models; autonomously coordinating motion, behavior, and maneuver planning; performing localization and mapping; and getting a handle on vehicle control.

By the end of the course, Maggioncalda says learners will use Python and open source frameworks to create a self-driving software suite.

“Today, the majority of the knowledge, data and intellectual property needed to train job seekers in the intricacies of this fast-paced industry are kept behind closed doors, deemed proprietary by each competing company and commercial interest. What’s more, across the industry, we’re seeing a growing concern for safety as self-driving cars start to enter the market,” Maggioncalda said. “Upon completing the [s]pecialization, learners will have a foundational overview of the full self-driving car software stack, enabling them to conduct graduate-level research within a robotics or autonomous driving lab or start a career in the autonomous driving industry.”

Despite what buzzy press releases might lead you to believe, artificial intelligence (AI) education is more than just a fad. Countries like China and France plan to invest billions in AI in the next decade, and with a shortage of AI job candidates projected, institutions stateside and abroad are doing all they can to place the next generation of data scientists in lucrative roles — for a price, in some cases.

In May, Carnegie Mellon University announced it will offer an undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence — the first of its kind in the U.S. And in October, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched a $1 billion initiative aimed at making artificial intelligence a core part of the college’s curriculum.

On the private sector side of the equation, there’s startups like, which offers free online data science courses for coders, and Coursera competitors like EdX and Udacity, which host a slew of AI and machine learning MOOCs. Meanwhile, Finland provides an online course — “Elements of AI” — in collaboration with the University of Helsinki and consulting firm Reaktor that it hopes will help to educate 1 percent of its population.

Automation Is Inevitable But Will Not Displace Driver Jobs: IRU’s Global Innovation Head

By Vishnu Rajamanickam 

via Freight Waves, January 28, 2019

Perceptions about automation depend on which side of the argument one is on, as autonomous trucks mean different things to different stakeholders in trucking. For a consumer or an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), automation means progress on the highways, because it could potentially reduce accidents, regulate freight flow, and eventually reign in the price of consumption. On the flip side, automation fuels fear in the driving community – it would be yet another step towards replacing them for good – the weight of excessive regulations notwithstanding.

Regardless, many industry thought leaders refuse to buy into the prospect of truck drivers being displaced entirely; they contend that automation could never mature to a level where it could completely replace a human driver. Freight hauling is not just about driving on the road, but also about documentation, terminal operations, refueling, loading and off-loading cargo, and many other operations that need a human touch.

FreightWaves discussed these issues with Zeljko Jeftic, global innovation lead at the World Road Transportation Organization (IRU), to discuss the feasibility of vehicle automation and its impact on the trucking community at large.

“I believe that autonomous vehicles are not going to take away jobs, but would help in their  evolution. Companies are looking for hub-to-hub operations via autonomous trucks, but that would still require a driver to jump in at the exit of a motorway, and drive it to the terminal,” said Jeftic. “You could either do it by being physically being present behind the wheel, or through remote-controlled operations. But you still would need to include drivers in the overall operations.”

The trucking industry may witness an evolution in driving jobs, with automation bringing sophistication and efficiency to the truck cabin, akin to aircraft cockpits. The industry would find some respite to the driver shortage issue, as physical driving would most likely be restricted to shorter first- and last-mile driving, with automation taking care of long hauls.

“We have a considerable forecast of the gross demand on transport, especially on the logistics side. Automation is going to put pressure, and we need to find a nice combination for both driverless and driver-supported hauling. We might have plans to have hub-to-hub operations within a decade if we have regulations set in place,” said Jeftic.

However, Jeftic was also skeptical of fully autonomous vehicles seeing the light of day within the next 10 years. “We are not going to have a vehicle that manages all-road and all-weather conditions for now, and I strongly believe we will still need skilled drivers. I hope that this element of highly automated vehicles is going to make this business a bit more interesting for the younger generation as well,” he said.

Jeftic spoke about the interest shown by OEMs towards autonomous technology and how it would turn out to be a positive reinforcement to the transportation sector. “Daimler investing €500 million into autonomous technology is a good sign; it is going to lead to increased levels of automation ultimately. This will help in making vehicles more intelligent and increase safety. But I believe that a vast majority of vehicles, even after 10 years, would still have a driver on-board. So adding autonomous functionalities is going to support drivers, helping them become more efficient,” he said.

To alleviate fears about automation within the trucking industry, Jeftic suggested a no holds barred approach. “I’m a strong believer in communication and open dialogue. We need to present a more balanced picture to transport operators and drivers, and also listen to their fears and address them,” said Jeftic. “At the IRU, we are doing some blog posts by engaging transport operators and are reaching out to our members who are actively looking forward to innovation in the industry.”

The tech-savvy millennials who will join the industry in the near future will likely have a greater acceptance of automation, because it will reduce their workload while making them more efficient.

Jeftic explained how his interactions with the younger crop of transport managers and fleet executives has shown him a glimpse of pragmatism towards innovation, and also their focus on keeping their companies relevant in the future, not just in the short-term but also a couple of decades down the road. “I tell people that to get ready for a highly automated future they should focus on digitizing their transport operations. They need to move away from using paper in planning and load-finding operations, and look to be proactively involved in discussions about automation,” he said.

See original article in Freight Waves

How States Can Shore Up Infrastructure for the Autonomous Vehicle Boom

By Dan Fagan 

via State Tech Magazine, February 27, 2018

For localities to take advantage of the benefits of self-driving cars, they must build out the connected infrastructure that supports them.

The future is nearly here for autonomous vehicles (AVs). It’s difficult to say when this technology will fully arrive, but it will become mainstream in the coming years, with some estimates placing self-driving cars on the streets as soon as 2020.

While it may be longer than that before autonomous vehicles dominate the roadways, state and local governments must be prepared.

2018 report from KPMG predicts that AVs will have a massive impact on our society. “The implications are so far-reaching that policymakers need to start planning now for our AV future,” the report states.

The chief benefit of AVs would be safety.

“The technology is going to make us safer, let’s be clear. You’re not going to have people in cars driving, texting and doing everything else,” former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said last year at a workshop on autonomous vehicles hosted by the Secretary of Transportation. “Cars aren’t stopping off and doing shots of whiskey.”

Researchers estimate in the KPMG report that more than 90 percent of motor vehicle accidents occur because of human error. Ideally, removing the human error factor from the equation could save as many as 3 million lives a year. Autonomous vehicles also operate more efficiently, potentially reducing pollution as well as traffic. All these benefits could provide a boost to the U.S. economy of as much as $1.3 trillion per yearaccording to a study by Morgan Stanley.

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Autonomous Vehicles Require Robust Networks

For autonomous vehicles to deliver on this promise, they must have an infrastructure that supports their operation. This infrastructure includes a number of technological elements, as well as simpler physical factors.

A robust network is perhaps the most important element needed to support AVs. Wireless companies are beginning to roll out 5G mobile networks that deliver the high-speed, low-latency connections that will enable self-driving cars.

“The vehicles … will also take in large quantities of information from the network, including ultra-high resolution maps and near real-time information to help navigate and detect what’s coming around the next corner or avoid upcoming traffic congestion,” Intel said in a 2017 fact sheet.

While private-sector organizations will operate most of these 5G networks, state and local governments have a keen interest in seeing their development and proliferation. Obstacles to 5G development could complicate deployment of AVs and the benefits they bring. For example, Motherboard reported that travel by AVs between cities may be hampered by “vast dead zones where you can’t even get a cell signal.”

To prevent creating silos for driverless cars, local government leaders should ensure they have the connectivity infrastructures in place to support the types of vehicle-to-vehicle or other communications autonomous cars are sure to need everywhere.

Cities Should Get Out Ahead of Driverless Car Needs

Aside from 5G networks, self-driving cars will need plenty of other infrastructure pieces to work properly. For example, The Car Connection reported that Atlanta “may need 50,000 environmental sensors20,000 pedestrian and mobility sensors and 10,000 cameras” to support its plan to move ahead with AVs.

Other requirements are simpler. AVs need clear lane markings and signage in order to operate effectively. States and localities must ensure that their roads meet these needs. Failure could lead to problems. For example, a 2016 demonstration of a prototype AV at the Los Angeles Auto Show reportedly went awry when the vehicle behaved sporadically because of poor road markings that proved difficult for the car’s sensors to read.

State and local governments that get out in front of these issues give themselves an advantage in the race to implement AVs. For example, Virginia has enacted legislation that allows AV developers to use more than 70 miles of state roadways to test and develop self-driving cars. However, Government Technology reported that only “four states have issued executive orders creating councils and working groups of stakeholders and public officials dedicated to looking at how their states should proceed” with autonomous vehicles.

Other states and localities may have time to catch up, but they can’t wait long. The future will be here before you know it.

Read full article here.

Self-Driving. Too Many Wolf Cries? Or Are We Ignoring The Elephant In The Room?

By Manoj Madvahan

via Seeking Alpha, January 27, 2019

Self-driving cars are set to displace millions of delivery drivers and people transporters. The list of delivery drivers includes drivers delivering pizza, take out restaurant orders, groceries, office packages, medicines, online shopping orders and many more. Car drivers who transport people for a living include millions of taxi drivers and ride-hailing app drivers. Some of the popular ride-hailing apps are – Uber and Lyft in the US (and worldwide), Grab, and GoJek in Malayasia, Easy Taxi in Brazil, Hitch-a-ride in Australia, Didi Chuxing in China and Ola in India. As self-driving cars become more widespread these drivers will have to find other ways to make a living. There will a period of pain and adjustment. Not every Uber driver will be able to take up Python or AI programming or find work related to autonomous driving devices and systems.

Jobs lost – no wait, CREATED! – to self-driving trucks

Millions of people are employed as UPS, FedEx, DHL and other delivery drivers, not to mention the millions more of long-haul truck drivers. Initially, a lot of people thought that self-driving trucks would displace these truckers. Now, however, a consensus seems to be emerging that it is going to be the other way around. Many of these drivers will still be in their trucks, similar to how a pilot sits in the cockpit of a plane even when the plane can fly on auto pilot. Even if there are unmanned trucks on the long-haul “middle” sections, truckers would be needed to navigate the first and last sections – of inner-city roads, rural roads and suburban subdivision lanes. However, the job of the drivers could change. They will not only be making deliveries and doing the necessary documentation, but also and other tasks, such as monitoring the cameras and computer systems in the truck.

Jobs lost due to reduced car ownership

Car ownership, especially in the developed world, is on a down sloping path. This slope may become steeper sooner than most people think. Car sharing combined with self-driving will reduce car ownership. Why own a car when you can subscribe to a car? For example, if I need the car from 8 am to 4 pm and you need the car from 5 pm to 11 pm, why do we need two cars.

See original article in Seeking Alpha.

Axios Future: 1 big thing — A Surge in Jobs of the Future

By Steve LeVine

via Axios FutureJanuary 22, 2019

The U.S. job market is brushing up against its best performance in a half-century, but certain occupations are in greater demand than most — those involving new or particularly human-led skills that seem least subject to automation.

  • In its latest quarterly index, provided first to Axios, Cognizant reports that “jobs of the future” — occupations like cyber calamity forecaster, career counselor and solar engineer — jumped 68% in 2018, vastly outperforming the market as a whole.
  • By comparison, the 2.6 million jobs created last year by the sizzling economy overall were only a 1.5% addition to the U.S. labor force.

Why it matters: The juxtaposition is not entirely fair, as the index involves only a fraction of the 163 million-strong U.S. labor force. Yet the result suggests that a broad sampling of future-pointing skills — and not just jobs like software engineering — is enjoying takeoff after struggling unevenly until now.

The big question: The index is made up of 50 jobs that have both a traditional and a digital component. It attempts to nibble at one of the most consequential questions of our age: What will happen with jobs in the new age of automation and artificial intelligence?

  • Future-of-work forecasts usually veer between wild extremes: On one side are predictions of a jobs wipeout, with humans left in low-paying work, if they can find work at all; on the other are more benign outlooks foreseeing the creation of sufficient jobs for everyone.
  • At minimum, the index suggests that we are on our way to finding out.

How it has worked thus far: All 50 jobs are indexed to the third quarter of 2016 (starting at 1.0). The index was negative before 2018: By the fourth quarter of 2017, “master of edge computing” was down to 0.82, “transportation supervisor” had fallen to 0.50 and “fashion designer” to 0.71.

  • But a year later, they were at 1.37, 1.21 and 2.68, respectively (fashion designer was the fastest-growing job of 2018, jumping 279%).
  • “Our view is that the unleashing of ‘animal spirits’ — post Trump tax cuts — caused a surge in hiring across the board, e.g., jobs of the future and all jobs writ large,” said Benjamin Pring, head of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work unit, who conceived the index.

Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, the freelance jobs site, said it’s no surprise that digital jobs are growing so fast. Upwork produces its own index, which tracks skills commanding the fastest-growing demand. He said particular skills are suddenly in great demand — for example, how to handle new software — but that the jobs dry up relatively quickly.

  • “Which is why some economists say that the half life of a skill is now five years and trending down (meaning, for such skills, knowing them in five years will only be half as valuable as knowing them today),” Kasriel said in an email exchange.
  • Examples of the skills in demand include engineers who could work with genetic algorithms, along with Kubernetes, a software platform, and Oculus Rift, a virtual reality system.

See the full article in the Axios Future newsletter.

Crain’s Detroit Business: Waymo Plans Michigan Expansion, Aiming to Create Up to 400 Jobs

By Dustin Walsh 

via Crain’s Detroit BusinessJanuary 22, 2019

Waymo, the autonomous vehicle sister company of Google, plans to invest up to $13.6 million and hire up to 400 in Michigan to expand its operations that work with automakers to integrate its self-driving technology.

The company, which employs 20 and operates a 53,000-square-foot office at 46555 Magellan Drive in Novi, is seeking 200,000 square feet of light manufacturing space to work with automakers on integrating its self-driving technology in Southeast Michigan, according to a memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

A specific location has not yet been identified, a representative from the MEDC told Crain’s via email Tuesday morning. A Waymo spokesperson told Automotive News the company would likely look to repurpose an existing space rather than build a new facility.

The project involves a partnership with auto supplier Magna International to integrate Waymo’s autonomous vehicle technology into the company’s expanding test fleet. Magna has a similar autonomous-vehicle partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft, in which it will integrate self-driving systems on fully autonomous vehicles for Lyft. Magna’s U.S. headquarters is in Troy.

“As we begin to commercialize our business and vehicle supply grows, we’re laying the foundation for a scalable, robust vehicle integration plan, starting in Michigan,” Waymo said in a statement.

Waymo plans to move into the space by the middle of this year, company executives said, and the program is expected to be operational by 2024.

“As we begin to commercialize our business and vehicle supply grows, we’re laying the foundation for a scalable, robust vehicle integration plan, starting in Michigan,” Waymo said in a statement.

Waymo plans to move into the space by the middle of this year, company executives said, and the program is expected to be operational by 2024.

The attacks are believed to be part of a growing concern over road safety during testing of driverless cars.

Now Waymo, the self-driving company with more vehicles on public roads than any other competitor, is helping to entrench Michigan’s role in producing vehicles of the future.

“Auto manufacturing has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state, and built an economic engine that fuel the entire country,” Waymo said in a statement. “We’ll be looking for engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars.”

— Pete Bigelow of Automotive News contributed to this article.

See original article in Crain’s Detroit Business.

Viewpoint: D.C. driverless car initiative will create good jobs

By Joe Rinzel – Americans for a Modern Economy

While driverless cars have the potential to transform society, the potential side effects — from jobs to public safety — raise important questions about how they will affect American communities. This is why lawmakers around the country should look to the nation’s capital, where a unique public-private partnership is helping pave the way for making cities safer and more eco-friendly while also preparing residents to take part in a new technological workforce.

D.C. recently struck a deal with Ford that will allow the automotive giant to test self-driving cars there beginning in 2019. A key component of the partnership requires Ford to team up with a local workforce development center to train residents to become vehicle operators during the testing process. Ford also pledged to train residents for careers as auto technicians — skills that are likely to be useful in maintaining and repairing self-driving cars. From A to Z, the partnership is designed to serve the city as a whole.

While this is the first public-private partnership in D.C. related to driverless cars, the District’s Office of Public-Private Partnerships (OP3) is aimed at ensuring transformative innovations work for the entire city — be it improving street lighting, modernizing outdated library facilities or implementing clean energy initiatives.

What is critical in all these projects is that D.C. has the administrative foundation in place to ensure residents benefit equally from innovation. Beyond driverless cars and other current infrastructure projects in the works, OP3 could be used to support other beneficial technologies, such as drones, while simultaneously training residents to learn the skills necessary to participate in the modern economy.

The benefits of modern transportation technologies such as driverless cars, e-scooters and drones could be enormous. By 2050, it is estimated that driverless cars could reduce accident fatalities by roughly 90 percent, saving more than 29,000 lives per year. E-scooters could help cities reduce their carbon footprint with less greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air. And drones could accelerate the adoption of high-speed 5G networks by enabling companies to deploy more test networks.

These 21st century technologies will also increase access to the workforce, especially for low-income and disabled residents. Affordable driverless taxi services, in particular, could be a game-changer for the 24 percent of households below the poverty line that do not own a car – especially when the D.C. Metro, like many other transit systems around the country, is in a state of disrepair. Autonomous vehicles will also make it easier for those with disabilities to get to work on their own. And beyond increasing access to the workforce, driverless cars will also create various new kinds of jobs, including everything from vehicle software engineering to autonomous vehicle maintenance. In fact, this job creation is already starting: in 2017, driverless job listings increased 27 percent.

It might be inevitable that new technologies produce fear of change, especially when it comes to the nature of work. But the answer cannot be to block innovation that promises to bring so many benefits. D.C. is showing how cities can leverage public-private partnerships to support and promote 21st technological advances that work for everyone.

Joe Rinzel is a spokesperson for Americans for a Modern Economy, a consumer advocacy group focused on modernizing regulations and laws governing the U.S. economy.

Electric, Autonomous Vehicles Expected to Create 100,000 Skilled Jobs

By Andy Szal

via Thomas Net, January 15, 2019

Dramatic changes in the automotive industry are likely to generate tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade-plus, according to a newly released study.

But the analysis from Boston Consulting Group and Detroit Mobility Lab noted that trend is also likely to make the current shortage of highly skilled workers worse.

The report projected that 20% of vehicles will feature hybrid or plug-in electric powertrains by 2030, and that 10% would feature partially autonomous or self-driving capabilities.

Those technologies — including the addition of smart infrastructure systems — are expected to create more than 100,000 skilled jobs in a burgeoning U.S. “mobility industry.” But analysts noted that 30,000 of those jobs would require engineers with degrees in computer-related fields.

The report noted that companies in many evolving industrial sectors already have difficulty attracting or retraining highly skilled workers, and that demand will be heightened due to the fact that new mobility engineers will need to be fluent not only in math and physics, but also in machine learning, data science, and robotics.

Analysts stressed that companies need to begin planning for industry changes immediately — and that those plans should consider the metro areas that are likely to churn out high numbers of in-demand engineers in the coming decade.

The addition of autonomous trucking and drone technologies, they noted, could push the projected number of new engineering jobs even higher.

“Those that delay could find it difficult to compete,” Boston Consulting Group senior partner Xavier Mosquet said in a statement.

See the original article on