Udacity to Offer Training in Baidu’s Apollo Platform

The autonomous vehicle industry is facing a worker shortage.

The technical skills required to be a driverless car engineer are extensive and advanced, and there is generally a greater demand for workers than there is supply.

Since self-driving car technology is so new, few engineers have had the time to acquire the skill set required to jump right in. But for those workers that are qualified, the benefits can be immense.

Many of the companies developing autonomous technology have received major injections of capital, so they have the cash to pay to employees that meet a very specific set of criteria. That’s why getting workers trained in the skills they will need has become such an important aspect of the race to get driverless cars on the road.

At CES, Chinese tech giant and autonomous vehicle developer Baidu announced a bold and innovative strategy to not only expand the driverless engineer workforce overall, but also to assist in Baidu’s own pursuit of talent.

Baidu revealed that it had partnered with tech education company Udacity to build an online course dedicated solely to training workers to build and develop on Apollo, Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform.

Udacity, founded and led by driverless vehicle pioneer Sebastian Thrun, offers so-called “nanodegree” programs online for aspiring workers in fields like data analysis, virtual reality development and digital marketing.

Given Thrun’s background, though, the company is best known for its courses that train engineers to work in autonomous vehicle design and development. According to Udacity head of self-driving cars David Silver, the Apollo course will be the first of its kind.

“Our Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree Program is an intense nine-month journey to becoming a self-driving car engineer, and it offers an amazing learning experience, but it is for advanced engineers,” Silver wrote in a Medium post. “And while our Intro to Self-Driving Cars Nanodegree program is an excellent point-of-entry for aspiring learners newer to the field, it offers an equally immersive experience. This course offers adds something new and important to the range of learning options.”

While various companies are working to develop proprietary self-driving car platforms that they hope will become the universal standard going forward, Apollo is arguably the best known platform in the industry that is already in development.

Baidu has an unparalleled list of partners who are helping develop Apollo, a roster that includes BlackBerryNvidia and Microsoft.

Baidu has always been an open source platform, but this education outreach through Udacity figures to help the company attract a greater number of Apollo contributors beyond its official partners.

Baidu is not the only company working on autonomous vehicles that has teamed up with Udacity to offer educational opportunities. Lyft is funding 400 scholarships for students to complete driverless car courses through the service, and Infosys contracted with Udacity to broaden its own engineers’ knowledge in self-driving tech.

But this is the first time that Udacity has built an entire course tailored to one company’s proprietary technology. And having more workers trained in its platform, gives Baidu yet another advantage in its quest to create the new industry standard.

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