Anand Joseph and Patrick Harrington, Ph.D., Paysa.com
Going down the road feeling bad, Detroit?
It only seems like the world was wrapping its head around the on-demand model for mobility and now the autonomous and self driving car technology is making the future a present reality.
Both these sea change events have caught the traditional automotive manufacturers completely off guard and has forced them to buy their way into this highly, niche/technical growth market that will power the future of the automotive/mobility industry.
Here at Paysa, we will identify the following:
- Who is a “self-driving car” engineer?
- Where do self driving car engineers and related engineers live?
- Where are the opportunities for self driving cars?
- Who’s hiring self driving cars engineers?
- How much money are self driving car engineers earning?
Here we go…
1. Who is a “self-driving car” engineer?
To start with, what are the skill sets that employers are looking in engineers to help define and power self driving car technology. An inspection of all job descriptions surrounding self driving car and related technologies yields the following breakdown of top listed skills:
Inspection of Figures 1–3 illustrate the highly technical nature of skills needed to interpret the physical world, distill it into a digitally interpretable entity and react to it with an always changing “policy” (reinforcement learning speak) all in real time to enable self driving cars to navigate the world safely.
Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and techniques within the field, notably deep learning, computer vision and robotics typically involve years of study to master the field resulting with many engineers holding advanced degrees. Almost 85% of these engineers hold a graduate degree with 57% possessing a doctorate in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Robotics, Machine Learning, Statistics and related fields.
This illustrates the incredibly high technical barrier to entry in this field and drives the investment companies are making to scoop up this talent especially when considering 27% of software engineers hold graduate degrees and only 1% hold doctorates as a comparison to the industry.
The demographic breakdown is male dominated of caucasian/asian engineers as seen in Figure 5.
2. Where do self driving car engineers and related engineers live?(related in the sense of engineers could “could” join this space, e.g., they have the skill set but not necessarily directly in the autonomous vehicle space, yet).
We’ve identified the highly technical skill set, largely in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision of these engineers, now the goal is to identify where in the United States these engineers tend to live….
The San Francisco Bay Area absolutely dominates the self driving car space with respect to density of these engineers.
Detroit and the region should be very concerned as they have less than 2% of professionals with this skill set within Metro Detroit (one in five jobs in Michigan are tied to the auto-industry).
One notable is the midwestern city emerging as a strong tech hub in this space is Pittsburgh, PA — largely due to the presence of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics, AI and Machine Learning expertise.
As more engineers migrate away from the Bay Area, Austin is emerging as a new destination for deep tech entities and that is illustrated with engineers in this self driving car space.
3. Where are the opportunities for self driving cars?
If there is one thing that Metro Detroit should be concerned about, it’s that the engineering/knowledge work of the automotive future is not occurring in the Metro Detroit Area…it’s in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We see in Figure 7 the incredible density of self driving car opportunities consolidating itself into the incredibly high tech, talent dense region of the San Francisco Bay Area with over 84% of the opportunity in this space.
They have set up shop in the heart of San Francisco and Silicon Valley with their knowledge based workers researching the software driven future of this traditional, slow moving industry.
“It’s very difficult to recruit those people to the Midwest,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader.com. “Every company has to put their best face forward in terms of making their places of work modern and appealing to the future job market.”
4. Who’s hiring self driving cars engineers?
Paysa is observing Google with the most self driving car engineer job openings with Zoox recently raising $200M at a $1B valuation going on a massive hiring spree in Menlo Park, CA. Ford and General Motors come in at slot five and six, largely driven by their hiring in the Bay Area.
We also observe NVIDIA and other GPU based chip makers hiring these engineers as GPU based processors are largely used in deep learning and other floating point arithmetic operations that computers running AI algorithms/image processing methods use.
5. How much money are self driving car engineers earning?
Lastly, these engineers are earning around $233K a year on average. Sebastian Thrun, Udacity co-founder and former Google self driving car lead engineer recently made a statement regarding the extraordinary supply/demand imbalance behind the industry’s needs and talent: “the going rate of self driving talent is $10M a head”. Here, Thrun was referring to the recent acquisitions of Cruise, Otto, et al., that when you do the math, comes out to about $10M a head.
Acknowledging this supply/demand imbalance, Udacity has spun up a nano-degree on “self driving car” technology to help feed the ecosystem with more niche training to enter this field with over 11,000 applicants.
To conclude…this is the wild west. Interpreting the physical world into digital, entities which impose an always updating “policy” of navigating an automobile through the urban jungle to the great open spaces is not a task taken lightly, technically….and those with this niche skill set are being handsomely rewarded.
Go west young man…