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Driverless Car Engineers


The automobile first came about in the 1880s, when inventors started to develop the foundations for vehicles that were self-propelled. During this time, German engineers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler created the first gas-fueled internal combustion engine. By the 1920s, cars were already being mass produced, thanks to innovations by Henry Ford, and the three big automobile companies were Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors. These Big Three, as referred to in the auto industry, continue to hold this status in the U.S. today.

The evolution of the computer, software systems, robotics, and other technologies in the 20th and 21st centuries have contributed to the development of autonomous vehicles. The research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), helped to speed up innovations in autonomous technologies by sponsoring research challenges from 2004 through 2013. As reported in a article, "In 2004, a competition was held to challenge vehicles to self-navigate 150 miles of desert roadway. While no car completed the route, subsequent challenges have seen dramatic leaps in capabilities. The 2007 challenge simulated a 60-mile long urban environment, with four cars completing the route in the allotted six-hour time limit."

Since then, existing car companies such as BMW and Ford, and recently established companies, such as Cruise, Tesla, and Waymo, have their engineers and other professionals exploring and developing self-driving cars. In 2015, Tesla introduced an "autopilot" feature that enables hands-free highway and freeway driving, which feature a software update to its Model S car owners. That same year the University of Michigan launched its Mobility Transformation Center, a test facility where autonomous vehicle technology can be tested. The autonomous vehicle industry is an emerging market that is expected to grow in the coming years, with good employment opportunities for driverless car engineers.

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