Autonomous vehicles will provide new jobs, but education across the board is key – report

As growth in use of autonomous vehicles stokes demand for workers with computer science and engineering skills, education and political leadership is crucial to ensuring Canada can meet those needs

A new report from AVIN (Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network) puts educators and policy makers on notice — both have responsibility to ensure that Canada’s automotive and mobility workforces are equipped for the transformative impact autonomous vehicle deployment will have on our economy and society.

According to the report, an increasing number of jobs in the automotive sector will require advanced technological skills as automation becomes the norm. Foremost among those will be areas of computer science including computer vision (the process of teaching machines to process images and videos as humans do) and machine learning.

Other areas of expertise that will see increasingly high demand include cybersecurity, manufacturing and production engineering, software engineering, and signal processing engineering.

“There are people acquiring these skills, but the supply isn’t comparable to the demand.”

Sherin Abdelhamid, Technical Advisor, Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network

Already a skills gap

As it stands, there is already a sizeable gap between the number of workers currently equipped with these skills and the level of demand which the industry will require. However, according to the report’s author, Sherin Abdelhamid, technical advisor of automotive and mobility at AVIN, educational opportunities to upskill already exist.

“There’s still a gap, but some programs have been offered for years now,” says Abdelhamid, citing the University of Toronto’s online learning specializations in self-driving cars as an example. “There are people working now on these things, there are people acquiring these skills, but of course the supply isn’t comparable to the demand.”

As such, it is vital to ensure the next generation of workers are educated on what skills will soon be in high demand, as it is to broaden and develop programs that allow those in comparable fields today to refocus their skills.

Also crucial to an efficient transition, Abdelhamid says, is ensuring that public figures and policy makers are well-informed on the drastic changes to come.

“They should know about the technology, know about the risks, know about the opportunities, and then connect with companies in this industry to know about their demands, and start to provide some sort of support to fill in talent gaps,” says Abdelhamid.