Udacity launches self-driving car nanodegree

The online education company is partnering with Mercedes-Benz, Nvidia, Otto and Didi Chuxing to ensure graduates of the program are successful.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer on

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The online education company Udacity is partnering with major companies in the field of autonomous vehicles to launch a nanodegree program for those interested in becoming a self-driving car engineer.

"It is the first and only program of its kind where most people with an internet connection--from Detroit to Damascus and from Adelaide to Aleppo--can learn the skills they need to work in one of the most amazing fields of our time," Udacity founder and president Sebastian Thrun wrote in a blog post.

The course, which spans three 12-week terms, covers deep learning, computer vision, sensor fusion, localization and controllers. Four major partners have committed to fast-tracking the nanodegree graduates into positions around the world: Mercedes-Benz, Nvidia, Otto (recently acquired by Uber) and Didi Chuxing. Thrun promised that more partners will be added to that list. Additionally, Udacity has partnerships in place, beginning with Nvidia, to provide scholarships for qualifying students.

Each term of the program costs $800, and the first term begins in October. There are 250 seats available for the first time, and as of Tuesday afternoon, Udacity said it had more than 1,200 applicants. Students are expected to have prior experience in Python or another scripting language and at least some background in probability, statistics and calculus.

Thrun himself is one of the instructors. Before founding Udacity, he helped pioneer the development of the self-driving car. As a professor at Stanford, he led the team that built Stanley, the autonomous car that won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. He was also a leader at Google X.

The other two instructors are David Silver, who was an autonomous vehicle engineer at Ford before joining Udacity, and Ryan Keenan, who according to LinkedIn, was a freelance data analyst before joining Udacity.

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