Silicon Valley goes back to school

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Online ed startup Udacity hits the road for students, teaching them autonomous technology amid a shortage of engineers. Lily Jamali reports.

Silicon Valley goes back to school

With self-driving cars on the cusp of revolutionizing America’s roads, there is one small problem- there are not enough trained engineers to build the technology.

SOUNDBITE: LILY JAMALI, REPORTER, REUTERS TV, (ENGLISH) SPEAKING:

“I’m Lily Jamali for Reuters at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Competition for engineers throughout Silicon Valley is already red-hot. But with so many tech – and auto – companies staking their future on autonomy, the appetite for coders who can make cars think is insatiable.”

Enter online education startup Udacity. It’s betting that demand is so strong, it’s starting an online course to train coders just in autonomous tech – promising a gig in the sector to follow – for 24-hundred dollars.

A year from now, Udacity expects this sedan will be driving itself from Mountain View to San Francisco. What it needs is students to write the code. It’s a subject Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun knows well – he launched Google’s driverless car program before leaving to start Udacity in 2012.

SOUNDBITE: SEBASTIAN THRUN, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, UDACITY, (ENGLISH) SAYING:

“We go to employers like Mercedes and so on and others and say, ‘What would a person have to know for you to hire that person?’ And then they get very specific and say, ‘This and this and this and this.’ And then there’s a great bingo, we’ve got our program. So now, what we have to do is we have to turn these objectives like these things you have to demonstrate, these projects into projects and into curriculum.”

To get in, a math background in linear algebra and some coding is required.

Still, the company has secured deals with Mercedes-Benz, China’s Didi, among others.

And while early in its history, Udacity had a hard time getting students to finish its other tech courses, perhaps the 138-K average salary for coders in the sector will convince them to stick around.

Tags : school, Back, goes, valley, Silicon

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