Udacity launches online driverless car degree
Wed 14 Sep 2016
Online education portal Udacity has announced that it has started offering the world’s first and only degree programme in engineering self-driving cars.
Udacity co-founder and driverless expert Sebastian Thrun said that the new programme will put students through their paces building autonomous vehicles and trialling the kit on real streets around San Francisco.
‘We will build a crowd-sourced, open-source self-driving car and it will be on the streets of San Francisco,’ said Thrun at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF event. He joked: ‘If you see a car go by that has the Udacity logo, run as fast as you can the other way just to be safe.’
Thrun previously worked with Google’s X Lab, responsible for some of the tech giant’s most cutting-edge research into self-driving vehicles and wearable technologies. Alongside other big names on the Silicon Valley scene, he launched Udacity in 2012 to support the education of engineers in the tech industry, specialising in building credentials across new fields of innovation. The website offers ‘nanodegrees’ to build on skills required in the job market.
The platform began accepting applications for its self-driving cars course this week. The programme takes nine months to complete and consists of three 12-week terms which each cost $800 (approx. £607). The first intake of 250 students will begin this October. The course will cover topics including deep learning, computer vision, sensor fusion, localisation and controllers.
According to Udacity, students must have prior experience in Python or other scripting languages and a background in areas such as probability and statistics.
Automaker Mercedes-Benz, China’s Didi Chuxing, chip-maker Nvidia, and transport startup Otto (recently acquired by Uber) will join the programme as degree partners. The firms will consider qualifying applicants for scholarships, and will fast-track successful graduates into global positions within their organisations.
‘Autonomous cars have become one of the hottest areas for innovation,’ Thrun wrote in a blog post. He continued: ‘Technology companies, automotive manufacturers, media giants, and start-ups around the world are rapidly pushing new advances in this space, whether it be hardware or software.’
His blog referred to a recent estimate from Boston Consulting Group which expects the driverless market to reach $42 billion by 2025.