| SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 29
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 29 Silicon Valley online
education platform Udacity has already received more than 11,000
applicants for its so-called nanodegree in self-driving car
engineering, Udacity president and Google X founder Sebastian
The high number of applicants - for 250 spots in the course
- underscores the pressing need for talent by technology leaders
such as Alphabet's Google and Apple,
traditional car companies and automotive start-ups, as they race
to develop production-ready autonomous-driving vehicles within
the next decade.
High-profile, costly acquisitions driven by the desire to
acquire talent, such as General Motors Co's purchase of
automotive start-up Cruise, or Uber Technologies
buying self-driving trucking start-up Otto, have marked the
sector over the past year.
"Self-driving car engineers are extremely in demand," Thrun
told Reuters in an interview. "The acquisition landscape is a
very good way to measure the desperation. Desperation is the
wrong word. But the same urgency and desire, particularly with
our partners, companies like Mercedes - they really are looking
Udacity's nanodegree course, which costs $2,400 for three
12-week terms, begins in October. Its curriculum was developed
with contributions from automaker Mercedes-Benz, chip
maker Nvidia Corp and self-driving truck startup Otto,
now part of Uber.
The average salary of a self-driving car engineer is
$138,000, according to Paysa.com, which studies market salaries.
Udacity is hoping to reach and train international talent
who cannot access a degree from prestigious U.S. universities
with top-notch engineering and robotics departments such as
M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon and Stanford.
General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra said Thursday at a
conference in Detroit that after GM acquired self-driving car
startup Cruise Automation, the company saw a 20 percent increase
in the number of people applying to work at the company.
Qualified software engineers are in short supply in Silicon
Valley and beyond, given the breadth of companies trying to
build up their software-based autonomous driving programs,
whether Ford Motor Co or start-ups like Drive.ai or Zoox.
In just one day, applications for the Udacity nanodegree
program jumped by 1,000, Thrun said, adding that many applicants
are already working as software engineers: "It's their dream to
work in Silicon Valley."
Students who make the cut for the self-driving car program
will learn to write the code necessary to allow a Lincoln sedan
to drive itself.
Thrun said his ambitious goal for the program is to complete
the car project within six months.
(Writing By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Joe White and Alan