Significant resources are being allocated to the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs), which creates enormous opportunity for engineers. Companies in the AV sector will rely more and more on engineering expertise and dozens are looking for top talent in the engineering field.
Engineers play a pivotal role in the broad range of cutting-edge technologies required by AVs to ensure appropriate communication and interaction with the environment, as well as an updated transportation infrastructure.
The skills needed for AV engineering jobs include those related to artificial intelligence (AI), computer science, and robotic sensor systems. According to Paysa, an informational website for employees to make educated, informed career decisions, the average market base salary for AV engineers is approximately $138,000, not counting signing bonus, annual bonus, and annual equity.
On the Road
Many say the current transportation infrastructure is a major roadblock to the advancement and adoption of AVs, with inconsistent signage and traffic controls and poor roadways. Implementing a quality road system is a must as AVs become more widespread, and engineering expertise is the key to making that happen.
Driverless cars are being tested in several states, including California, Arizona, Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts, where road conditions vary greatly based on state economy and weather conditions.
Jay Hietpas, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) state traffic engineer finds that testing in cold weather places is critical. During testing of a 12-passenger (six standing, six sitting) short-distance shuttle last winter, MnDOT found that its sensors picked up on falling snow and would stop every now and again as if it were in front of an object or person. With no steering wheel, brakes or accelerator pedals, an operator is required to press a button to get the shuttle going again. Testing in the snow lets the vehicle’s engineers adjust its programming, so it could better adapt to the changing weather without stopping over and over again.
Stephen Druschel, a professor of civil engineering at Minnesota State University, says that getting roads “up to snuff” to handle great numbers of AVs would not be easy. There needs to be a greater consistency on road surfaces and edges for AVs to navigate the state’s infrastructure. It’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of engineers.
He says, “The problem is that we’re not stocking enough engineers now. We have crying need from our employers and we’re barely able to keep up with infrastructure needs now, let alone those required to prepare the roads for more autonomous vehicles.”
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Phillips, Stacey. (2018). How Autonomous Vehicles Are Driving Change in the Engineering Industry. iConnectEngineers.
Narveson, Deanna B. (18 Dec 2017). Will AVs Drive a Need for More Engineers? GovTech.