You Can Take an Online Course in Self-Driving Cars, Thanks to Lyft and Udacity

The ride-hailing company is offering scholarships for the online “nano degree” course.

byStephen Edelstein|

Self-driving cars may not be in mass production yet, but can already take a class on them. Online teaching startup Udacity is offering a four-month "nano degree" course called "Intro to Self-Driving Cars."

The class costs $800, but Lyft is offering 400 scholarships targeted at students from groups that are underrepresented in the tech industry, according to The Verge. The only prerequisites are knowledge of algebra and at least some familiarity with programming. 

The course qualifies students for Udacity's Self-Driving Car or Robotics Nanodegree programs, both of which are designed to accredit students with specific skills that employers in those fields want. Udacity hopes to fill demand in a growing job market for self-driving car developers. With a host of automakers, tech companies, and assorted startups getting into autonomous driving, it's easy to imagine that there are a lot of job openings.

Udacity was founded in 2011 by Sebastian Thrun, who happened to be the first leader of Google's self-driving car project, now known as Waymo. In the early days of self-driving car development, Thrun managed Stanford University teams in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.

The self-driving car nano-degree program launched last year. Since then, more than 43,000 people have applied, and more than 10,000 students from 50 countries have enrolled in the program, according to Udacity. Nearly 60 of the program's students have landed new jobs ahead of graduating later this year, according to the company.

Some of those Udacity graduates could end up at Lyft. The ride-sharing company is pumping up its self-driving car efforts, with plans to build an engineering facility in Palo Alto, California, and staff it with "hundreds" of engineers by next year. It wants to give one billion rides in self-driving cars by 2025.