SAN FRANCISCO – If you’ve got tech skills and are interested in self-driving cars, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up working in the Bay Area.
Where jobs in the automotive field were once exclusively tied to Detroit, the mushrooming importance of software to mobility has seen employment opportunities migrate west as established automakers such as Ford Motor and Mercedes-Benz boost their ranks in Silicon Valley.
That shift is borne out by data provided to USA TODAY by Paysa, a site that uses machine learning to provide salary information and career success insights for both job seekers and businesses.
Over the past six months, dozens of companies looking for self-driving car talent posted more than 350 job listings, with 230 of those jobs based in either Mountain View or Palo Alto. Most positions fell under the broad heading of software engineer, though some were as specific as vehicle dynamics modeling engineer and reality capture processor.
Google’s hiring needs could well shift in time, given car project CEO John Krafcik’s announcement about a new 53,000-square-foot facility the company plans to open in the Detroit suburb of Novi.
The outpost will allow Google engineers to work more closely with a range of automotive partners. Google currently has an agreement with Fiat Chrysler for the development of 100 Pacifica minivans that will be outfitted for testing purposes with self-driving tech.
Of note on the Paysa list was Uber, which has been making a huge push on the self-driving car front. It listed just 9 jobs over the past six months. The ride-hailing giant recently began picking up passengers in its self-driving Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh, home to its new research facility.
A surprising fourth with 24 job postings was lesser-known Zoox, a Silicon Valley startup that hopes to rival Tesla. In June, Zoox raised $200 million in Series A funding at a valuation of $1 billion.
“This migration from Detroit just shows how what matters most these days is what’s inside the car,” says Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa. “I wasn’t that surprised by this data. But what did surprise me was finding companies in the mix that I wouldn’t have expected.”
In addition to HERE and Zoox appearing in the mix with Google, Ford Motor (23 postings), General Motors (22) and Tesla (19), there are smaller self-driving car startups such as autonomous tech aftermarket company Drive.ai (6 jobs) and self-driving Olli bus builder Local Motors (4).
Notably absent from the Paysa list was Apple, which has never admitted to a car program despite news reports indicating that there recently have been dozens of layoffs from a staff of 1,000.
While two-thirds of the jobs were in the Bay Area, the next biggest geographic location was Chicago (30 positions), followed by Cambridge, Mass (27 jobs). Michigan accounted for just 15 jobs in three cities.
As far as job skill requirements, the top computer science skills needed by self-driving car companies were proficiency in the programming languages C++ (61%) and Python (56%). The most desirable non-CS skills were computer vision (48%), computer simulation (47%) and robotics (41%).
If you were to wind up with one of these autonomous car jobs, your colleagues are most likely to be white and male. The tech industry at large continues to grapple with improving diversity within its ranks, which often finds few women or people of color in high-ranking position.
According to Paysa data on those who took jobs in the self-driving car space over the past six months, 69% were men and 6% were women. Paysa could not get gender data for 27% of new hires. In terms of ethnicity, 43% were white, 37% were Asian and 22% went undisclosed.
One caveat: You might want to have your PhD buttoned up before applying since 57% of those hired in the self-driving car space had that advanced degree. Only 27% were hired with just a masters degree, and 15% with a bachelors only.
While one of the most famous names in autonomous car robotics degrees is Carnegie Mellon University, online education site Udacity recently launched a Nanodegree in autonomous car tech that promises graduates the attentive eyes of recruiters from companies such as Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia.
Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava @marcodellacava