How to Prepare Students for Jobs in the Self-Driving Car Industry

How to Prepare Students for Jobs in the Self-Driving Car Industry

via Ed Surge, February 28, 2019

By John Waters

Many roads lead to a career in the self-driving car industry. That painfully obvious pun is actually one of the truest things you can say about this nascent, multidisciplinary enterprise, and it also encapsulates the challenge educators who want to prepare their students to work in this industry are facing today.

“There’s a misconception that there’s such a thing as ‘self-driving car technology,’” says Sudha Jamthe, who designed and teaches the first autonomous vehicles business course for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program. “But the self-driving car has many, many layers of tech—of software, of engineering, and design—which is the beauty of it. People working in this industry have a wide range of skills and experience.”

Predictions about when self-driving cars will take over our streets and highways vary widely, but Alexander Wyglinski, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, says these yet-to-go-mainstream machines are generating real opportunities today for job seekers with the right combinations of qualifications.

“What people in this industry are looking for depends a lot on the company,” Wyglinski says. “There are the Teslas, Waymos and Ubers of the world—companies looking to get self-driving vehicles on the road in two or three years. There are the startup companies trying to figure out what the next generation is going to look like. And there are companies working on systems that will go into self-driving cars—new radar and lidar systems, new decision-making algorithms and software, and new mechanical components for these vehicles.”

One thing all of those companies seem to have in common, says John M. Dolan, principal systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and a self-driving vehicle researcher in the school’s Robotics Institute, is the value they place on employees with that broad skill set.

“Generally speaking, it’s not enough to be just a programmer or an engineer,” Dolan says. “You might be hired to write the code or design the hardware, but they expect you to be able to understand the big picture.”

All three experts interviewed for this story emphasized that the self-driving car/autonomous vehicle industry is still in its infancy, and that it is evolving quickly and often in unpredictable ways. With that caveat in place, they offered the following advice for students and educators:

Take A Lot of Math

Students would be well served to take every math class they can get in high school, and then continue with advanced courses in college. Especially important: linear algebra and calculus. “Linear algebra is at the heart of how the car learns to drive itself,” says Jamthe.

Learn to Program More Than Just Python

Python is the most commonly taught language in secondary schools, and it’s the language used in TensorFlow, the popular open-source machine learning library—which is good. But even better, says Dolan: C++. “It’s the go-to language for fast execution and building substantial architectures,” he says. “Python doesn’t do as well when it comes to dealing with real-time systems, where you’re trying to make sure you have millisecond timing on different events and things like that. That’s where C and C++ bring in the structural part, which object-oriented programming is very good at.”

Join the Robotics Club

All three offered this recommendation enthusiastically. A self-driving car is essentially a robot, so getting experience working with these machine will be invaluable in the job market, they said. Robotics teams include builders and coders—and promoters—so they offer a kind of industry preview. “The more exposure to whatever elements are available in this area, the younger the better,” Dolan said.

Study Machine Learning

Most colleges offer classes in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning, but high schoolers will likely have to look for classes outside school, Jamthe says. “There’s all this fluffy talk about AI and it’s so scary, but what people are really learning is machine learning,” she says. “I think it’s something young students need to learn, and they can learn it.”

Study Probability and Statistics

This is another key subject, says Dolan. “Take it in high school if you can,” he says. “You’ll find it gets applied to localizing robots and high-def mapping. They use SLAM techniques (simultaneous localization and mapping), which depends on probability and statistics.

Take Some Art Classes

Once we establish vehicles that truly drive themselves, their interiors are going to undergo a serious redesign. Having some familiarity with design will help you think outside the box, Jamthe said. “It’s going to be a highly competitive field, and you’ll need creativity to differentiate yourself, both as an employee and potentially an entrepreneur.”

Pursue Multiple Majors

The self-driving car industry is multidisciplinary, and the students who want to work in it should be too, says Wyglinski. “We see a lot of dual majors here at WPI—combinations like mechanical and electrical engineering, or computer science and electrical engineering,” he says. “And our robotics engineering program is inherently multidisciplinary. So, we’re graduating students already with the ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives, and that’s a key skill in the self-driving car industry.”

Work on Your Own Car

“I say this to people, and I get a few looks, but if you think about it, it’s not such an odd recommendation,” Wyglinski says. “If you want to work in an industry focused on cars, you should take a look at one. Change your oil. Change your brake pads. Go in with the mechanic when he or she has your car up on the hoist and look around. It’s about seeing where theory will meet practice. And it’ll make you less afraid to jump in and play around with physical systems.”

Never Stop Learning

“Keep in mind that this industry is evolving very quickly,” says Jamthe. “The jobs that are out there today are going to be different tomorrow, and it’s very hard to predict what they will be. So, general knowledge, as opposed to specialized knowledge, is likely to be very important in the long run.”

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Will Autonomous Vehicles Make Us Better People?

By Tom Jacobs

via Forbes, February 11, 2019

Research finds that programming driverless cars ahead of time inspires a person to move away from egocentric decision-making.

There has been much speculation about how the coming wave of self-driving cars will change our lives. New research offers a welcome possibility: This new technology may prompt us to shift our thinking away from our own desires, and more toward the common good.

In a series of experiments, participants “programmed their autonomous vehicles to act more cooperatively than if they were driving themselves,” writes a research team from Northeastern University, the University of Southern California, and the United States Army Research Laboratory.

The researchers, led by Celso de Melo, report that making driving-related decisions in advance of a trip shifts our focus away from “selfish, short-term rewards.” The results point to the possibility of “designing autonomous machines that contribute to a more cooperative society.”

The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documents this effect in a series of experiments. The first featured 96 Americans recruited online, who took part in a classic “prisoner’s dilemma” experiment with three other people.

The computer-simulated scenario was simple: Participants were asked to decide whether to turn on the air conditioner after a car they were traveling in came to a stop. Half made the choice in the moment, while the others programmed the decision in advance. This scenario was repeated 10 times in total; participants made simultaneous decisions without communicating with one another.

The central result: “Participants were statistically significantly more likely to turn off the AC when programming their autonomous vehicle to act on their behalf than when driving themselves.”

In other words, they were more likely to make a decision that saved energy and was thus good for the environment if they made it in advance rather than in the moment. Intriguingly, this held true regardless of the participants’ self-assessment of where they stood on the selfish-to-selfless scale.

Follow-up experiments with larger samples replicated these results, and pointed to reduced focus on short-term reward as the apparent catalyst for the programmers’ environmentally friendly behavior. Sitting at a stoplight, you’re more likely to reflexively turn on the air conditioning to decrease your discomfort; thinking ahead, you’re more prone to consider the tradeoffs involved.

In one experiment, this pattern persisted even when participants were permitted to change their minds at any time. In another, it was found to be independent “of whether others behaved cooperatively or competitively.”

At this point, precisely how we will interact with driverless cars and other high-tech conveniences remains highly uncertain. Some cars will presumably program themselves to a large extent.

But these results suggest that, when humans are given autonomy at the outset to make key decisions, the process stimulates us to consider factors beyond our own needs and wants. Going driverless just may inspire selflessness.

See original article in Pacific Standard here.

The Big Challenges In Regulating Self-Driving Cars

By Daniel Araya, Contributor

via Forbes, January 29, 2019

Over the next decade, “self-driving” as a feature of transportation will become as commonplace as cruise control. Forecasts suggest that by 2050, the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry could be worth a staggering $7 trillion. To put this in perspective, that’s almost twice the size of Germany’s entire economy. Like any new technology, self-driving cars represent a significant new opportunity. But they also pose significant new risks.  Before AVs can become ubiquitous, they will first need to be regulated. And regulating self-driving cars remains a complicated challenge.

Going Mainstream

The truth is that self-driving cars are not as radical as they might seem. AV technology builds on many existing innovations impacting related industries including factory production (machine automation), telecommunications (information technology), aircraft control systems (autopilot) and terrestrial navigation (GPS). In fact, there is a counter-intuitive analogy that makes driverless cars less inexplicable. Long before the arrival of self-driving cars, there was the elevator. Elevators transformed how humans physically move through buildings, eventually eliminating the need for human operators altogether.

Like elevators, AV technology will completely transform urban mobility. The expectation is that AVs will provide needed relief to overloaded transportation systems with driverless vehicles freeing more than 250 million hours of commuting time each year. Driverless vehicles will help smooth traffic flow and reduce congestion by automating transportation across ever-advancing telecommunications networks. But even as the capabilities of AVs continue to evolve, it’s not a given that consumers will choose to buy them. What is more likely is that the on-demand nature of driverless cars will reshape the transportation industry altogether.

The End of Car Ownership?

There are 3.7 billion people living in cities today with that number set to double by 2050. Assuming on-demand transportation companies like Lyft and Uber are the future, then personal car ownership could eventually become a thing of the past. Given the global rise in urban living, we can safely assume that alternatives to traditional car ownership will become the norm.

One key challenge for AV legislation is the issue of ownership. The current legal assumption is that AVs will be purchased and owned by customers. But what is more likely is that AVs will simply accelerate the shift to transportation-as-a-service. The fact is that the number of 16 to 44-year olds obtaining a driver’s license in the United States has been steadily declining since 1983. Indeed, the number of people getting driver’s licenses has been decreasing across every age group.

See original article in Forbes here.

BlackBerry to Add Hundreds of Autonomous Vehicles Jobs, Co-Op Positions in Kanata

BlackBerry to Add Hundreds of Autonomous Vehicles Jobs, Co-Op Positions in Kanata

via Ottowa Business Journal, February 14, 2019

By Craig Lord

The Liberal government is adding $40 million in federal money to a $310.5-million pledge from BlackBerry aimed at supporting the development of self-driving car technologies in Kanata.

BlackBerry’s spending will come over the next 10 years and, alongside the money from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund announced on Friday, is expected to create a total of 800 new jobs and nearly 1,000 co-op placements. In addition to the AV spending, BlackBerry is also committing $5 million to develop new cybersecurity solutions with government and industry partners.

Though it built its name as a trusted handset developer, the BlackBerry of today has tied its future to software and autonomous car technologies. The Waterloo-based company’s AV development is largely concentrated in its QNX division, headquartered in Kanata.

BlackBerry has positioned itself as a leader in the connected car space, with its technology in tens of millions of vehicles today. The company has been involved in numerous autonomous vehicle initiatives locally, such as the city’s new AV test track and the first-ever test of a self-driving car on a Canadian public road back in 2017.

BlackBerry QNX’s head of product Grant Courville told OBJ last year that the firm’s decision to establish an AV centre of excellence locally turned Kanata into a beacon for talent, post-secondary institutions and other companies interested in the industry.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the funding Friday morning alongside BlackBerry CEO John Chen in Kanata. Trudeau was also in attendance in late 2016 when the company announced it would be investing $100 million in its Kanata operations, then expecting to add some 650 jobs.

Though BlackBerry does not regularly disclose its headcount, the firm was last reported to have around 400 local employees. Many of those workers were part of a Canada-wide, 300-employee transfer from BlackBerry’s QNX division to Ford Motor Co. in 2017 following an announcement that the two firms would be working together on vehicle connectivity projects.

The move triggered a class-action lawsuit claiming the former BlackBerry employees were owed severance, and a lawyer representing one of the workers told OBJ “a fair number” of those affected were from the company’s Kanata division. BlackBerry said at the time it rejected the claims, which have not been proven in court.

Ford has since grown its presence in the capital with plans for a new R&D centre. The new Cominar build will have space for some 300 employees and is slated to open next year in Kanata South.

– With files from Canadian Press

See original article in the Ottawa Business Journal.

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Driverless Cars Are Coming: When Will They Arrive in Chicago?

Driverless Cars Are Coming: When Will They Arrive in Chicago?

By Ryan Smith

via Chicago Sun-Times, February 10, 2019

Human beings are still in the driver’s seat at this year’s Chicago Auto Show — but drivers may soon be an endangered species.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, rows of booths showcasing the latest gadgets were dotted with displays from automobile makers presenting vehicles like Toyota’s Research Institute’s TRI-P4: a Lexus LS sedan able to drive itself.

Experts praise self-driving cars for their life-saving potential and convenience, paving the way for an autonomous vehicle future. Most major car manufacturers, as well as ride-sharing giants Lyft and Uber, are currently testing different versions of the technology across the United States.

Lyft’s autonomous car program in Las Vegas has been fully functioning since May 2018. In October, Ford Motor Company announced it would expand its autonomous testing program to Washington, D.C. in 2019, joining tests in Detroit, Miami and Pittsburgh. Ford also is partnering with Domino’s to test self-driving pizza deliveries. Cruise Automation, a self-driving start-up owned by General Motors, announced a similar partner- ship with food delivery service DoorDash.

Autonomous Illinois

While it’s not on the list of autonomous test cities, Chicago is nurturing its own self-driving revolution. It’s home to Innova EV, a car company started in 2012 by Roman Kuropas. Innova EV is focused on two versions of a small 1,100-pound electric vehicle called the Dash: one you drive, one you don’t. The autonomous version of the Dash is being tested on college campuses in Ohio, Colorado and Wisconsin.

Kuropas says plans are in the works to bring autonomous car testing to Illinois, where limitations have kept self-driving development stuck in neutral.

A new state law went into effect in June that prevents local municipalities from banning autonomous cars. In October, former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order directing the Illinois Department of Transportation to develop a program to test and plan for the arrival of automated vehicles.

“This technology is here, and Illinois is ready to embrace it,” Rauner said. Shortly afterward, the state launched Autonomous Illinois — a new testing program for connected and automated vehicles.

In Chicago, self-driving cars are one of the big-picture projects on the list for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Transportation and Mobility Task Force, which met for the first time in October. One of the task force’s ideas is an autonomous vehicle pilot program that could include a route for self-driving cars connecting the Loop to McCormick Place.

“There’s a lot of potential in Chicago, especially with all of the tech companies based here,” said Sharon Feigon, executive director of the Shared Use Mobility Center, and a member of the mobility task force.

Advocates say that in Chicago, the ideal scenario for self-driving cars is one in which people give up their own personal vehicles and instead opt for a cheap, shared ride in combination with public transit. Instead of hopping in your car to avoid a rain-soaked wait at your nearest bus stop, you order a self-driving car on your smartphone that takes you right to the nearest Metra or the Red Line station. Or for about the same price as a CTA ride, you take a smart shuttle that gets you to your destination in half the time, with a reduced collision risk.

That last part is key: Ninety-four percent of traffic accidents have been linked to human error, and automotive fatalities in the U.S. topped 40,000 for both 2016 and 2017, according to the National Safety Council. “America has a blind spot when it comes to traffic crashes. It’s a serious problem,” says Ron Burke, Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “We’re optimistic that new technology could greatly lessen the probability of crashing.”

The road ahead

If you’re getting excited about the prospect of self-driving cars, pump the brakes. You may have a robot chauffeur someday, but not in 2019.

The path to driverless cars, or “full driving automation,” as the Society of Automotive Engineers calls it, has been bumpier than expected.

“A couple of years ago, a lot of us thought [autonomous vehicles] would happen really soon. But there’s still a lot of issues with it,” said Feigon. “It has a lot of potential, and the technology has been good, but it’s not perfect, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Self-driving cars don’t just have a technology problem — in some ways, they also have an image problem. In Arizona, locals in suburban Phoenix have been slashing tires and throwing rocks at autonomous vans being tested by Waymo, the driverless car company spun off from Google.

A Pew Research Center poll says that more than half of Americans are worried or somewhat worried about self-driving vehicles and don’t want to ride in them. That poll was taken months before an autonomous Uber SUV killed a pedestrian in Arizona in early 2018, highlighting flaws in the company’s software and raising new concerns about self-driving tech.

These issues are causing industry and transportation experts to extend the timeline for fully autonomous cars until 2030 or possibly 2040. Kuropas estimates that wholesale adoption of self-driving cars is at least a decade away.

“We think there will be a driver behind the wheel for quite a long time until the time when people feel comfortable with autonomous,” said Kuropas. “We’re cautious, we’re crawling. There’s no sense of being overly aggressive.”

Some Chicagoans say they’re OK with that.

Hana Zickgraf, 28, of Hyde Park, says she acknowledges the safety benefits of self-driving cars but doesn’t like being confined to the passenger seat.

“I associate driving with individual freedom and opportunity, and it’s super fun,” said Zickgraf. “It has the effect of calming me down when I’m anxious.”

Karen Hayes, 37, of the Loop, has gone without a car for most of her 15 years as a Chicago resident, but bought a Porsche last month because she missed “that adrenaline rush you get from driving.

“I’d much rather drive than ride,” she said.

See original article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Self-Driving Vehicles Will Change The World In Some Unexpected Ways

Self-Driving Vehicles Will Change The World In Some Unexpected Ways

via Forbes, February 8, 2019

What are some unexpected ways self-driving vehicles will change the world? originally appeared on Quorathe place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Gary Shapiro, President and CEO at Consumer Technology Association, on Quora:

Vehicle accidents claim more than 37,000 lives every year in the United State alone. And 94 percent of U.S. traffic accidents are caused by human error. Self-driving technology will save lives, prevent injuries and make our roads safer. Self-driving vehicles will also save us money, cutting the cost of insurance, licensing and repairs. Aon estimates that self-driving cars could lead insurance companies to lower premiums by 40 percent or more.

Self-driving vehicles will free up time spent in traffic or searching for parking spaces. They’ll boost productivity, increase fuel efficiency and eliminate many traffic snarls. Think of all the other things you can do in the car if you’re not focused on driving. Self-driving technology will unlock new sources of productivity and generate new avenues for economic growth, particularly for the 20 to 30 million Americans who are kept off the roads due to physical disability. Self-driving vehicles will grant new independence to these individuals, giving them the ability to enter the workforce and contribute to their local economies and societies and the freedom to travel to work, medical appointments, community events and family gatherings.

Self-driving vehicles will change the nature of our cities. We will likely need fewer parking spaces, and may be less likely to buy cars. Today, most cars sit unused 95 percent of the time. If we cut this in half we will need fewer cars.

With these possibilities on the horizon, it’s no surprise that three-quarters of consumers are excited about self-driving vehicles and two-thirds say they’re willing to trade out their current vehicle for a self-driving one!

See original article in Forbes

Pittsburgh Residents Don’t Fear Driverless Vehicles, Survey Says

Pittsburgh Residents Don’t Fear Driverless Vehicles, Survey Says

via, February 7, 2019

By Nicole C. Brambila

Pittsburghers are – by and large – comfortable sharing the road with autonomous vehicles, bucking national trends that show most U.S. drivers distrust driverless technology.

This week Bike Pittsburgh, which advocates for safe streets to bike and walk, released a biennial survey showing people feel safer sharing the road with autonomous vehicles over human drivers.

“Our survey shows that the more people have exposure with this, the more comfortable they are with it,” said Eric Boerer, the group’s advocacy director.

The findings stand in stark contrast to most public opinion polls, which consistently find American drivers are leery of vehicles steered by artificial intelligence.

For example, a Gallup poll last year found 62 percent of drivers would not be uncomfortable sharing the road with self-driving trucks. And an international study by TÜV Rheinland, also last year, examined Chinese, German and American attitudes and found only a third of U.S. drivers believe driverless cars will increase road safety.

So why would Pittsburghers feel so differently?

Boerer says the reason is likely because the rest of the public doesn’t yet interact with the technology. Driverless cars are not cruising around most communities like they do in Pittsburgh. Aurora Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University, Uber and Argo AI are all testing self-driving cars in Allegheny County, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data.

State and federal law does not yet address vehicle development. However, PennDOT last year issued guidance for testers. Erin Waters-Trasatt, a PennDOT spokeswoman, said that while voluntary, the agency expects compliance.

Bike Pittsburgh first conducted its survey gauging public sentiment after Uber began testing semi-autonomous vehicles in 2016.

Among the findings released Tuesday:

  • 61 percent of pedestrians in Pittsburgh have encountered an autonomous vehicle and 53 percent of bikers.
  • 72 percent of the 800 Pittsburghers surveyed said they believed self-driving vehicles will improve road safety.
  • Only 15 percent of respondents said these vehicles will make street safety worse.

The survey also reflects local sentiments in the wake of the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous car in Tempe, Ariz., last March. Pittsburghers didn’t sour on the technology as much as how Uber handled the tragedy, the survey found.

Sarah Abboud, an Uber spokeswoman, said the local survey was good news for the industry.

“We are encouraged that the majority of survey respondents have confidence in self-driving vehicle safety in our city, and we look forward to our continued partnership with key government and community stakeholders as we develop and test our self-driving technology,” Abboud said in an email to the Tribune-Review.

Bike Pittsburgh also identified an issue with self-driving cars “impatiently passing people on bikes” on Railroad Street in the Strip District that has resulted in at least one injury. Reported through an online submission form that seeks the public’s experiences with autonomous vehicles, the group identified an incident last summer involving an Argo AI car and a bike rider. The bike rider broke an arm after an Argo car passed too closely, according to a complaint submitted to Bike Pittsburgh.

Alan Hall, a Ford Autonomous Vehicles spokesman, said Argo AI was not aware of last summer’s incident until this week. The company, he said, has initiated an internal investigation.

The survey also highlights 10 policy recommendations that include requiring autonomous vehicles be easily identifiable and the city creating a procedure for reporting safety-related incidents.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who has pushed for driverless car restrictions that includes an operating speed limit, did not respond to requests for comment.

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