Udacity offers course in self-driving car engineering

Online educational site wants to spur the success of automated cars by training more engineers

Professional drivers, take note: driverless cars may be about to steal your job, but you can start your retraining with Udacity, which is offering an online degree in automated vehicle design. 

Udacity is the online education site founded by former Google Labs chief Sebastian Thrun, and offers a wide range of courses from programming to machine learning and data analytics. 

It's latest course is for a self-driving car engineer, for which it's partnered with Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia, among others. Students will be taught about deep learning, computer vision, automotive hardware and more - and you'll get to run your test code on an "actual autonomous vehicle", the site boasts. 

"We will build a crowd-sourced, open-source self-driving car and it will be on the streets of San Francisco," Thrun told the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, according to reports. "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," he added, jokingly. 

In a blog post, he said that if autonomous cars succeed, they'll change every aspect of our lives. "To make this a reality we will need the best inventors, dreamers and mavericks to come into this field from wherever they might be in the world," he said. "Udacity is all about democratising learning and today we have the ability to put the latest advances into the grasp of millions."

Thrun said there simply isn't enough engineers working on self-driving cars, and bridging that gap is part of the reason he left Google X to found Udacity. "I was working on all these wonderful technologies, then I realised there were only a small number of engineers doing this stuff," he said. "I decided to make it possible for others to do these things. I felt, if we could build a new kind of university, we could have a bigger impact on the world than just building a self-driving car."

The "nanodegree" program is made up of three terms of 12 weeks each, at a cost of $800 per term or $2,400 (1,800). There are 250 spots available in the online course, and at the time of writing, there had been 1,941 applications for the first course starting in October. You will need some pre-existing skills to get in - don't apply unless you have some knowledge or coursework in probability, statistics, machine learning and are an intermediate Python programmer. The full prerequisites are here

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