Udacity announces its partners for its autonomous driving nanodegree

Sebastian Thrun is taking a drive down memory lane with the latest initiative from his online learning juggernaut, Udacity. The company is partnering with Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Didi, Otto, and Nvidia on a nanodegree program for self-driving cars, Thrun announced onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.

Working with Udacity, the partners will set up a curriculum that includes courses on sensor fusion, situation assessment, maneuver and trajectory planning and deep learning.

Applications open today and will be accepted through the 27th of September. According to a release from Mercedes-Benz each session is 12 weeks long for roughly a nine-month training session.

As part of students’ capstone project, they will build autonomous software that will be applied to an actual vehicle.

Consulting firm BCG believes the market for partially and fully autonomous vehicles will be at $22 billion by 2025. With numbers like those, Udacity believes that there aren’t going to be enough engineers to hire from the premiere institutions like Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and MIT.

The partners in the program concur. They’ve all agreed to fast track students from the nanodegree program for jobs after they graduate.

And each of the partners are chipping in with different aspects of the curriculum. Mercedes Benz is helping with software, Otto is going to help design projects for students to do, while Nvidia is going to guide the overall trajectory of the curriculum, according to a Udacity spokesperson.

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Mercedes-Benz started its research in the valley in 1995  and in 2014 the company became one of the first car makers to be issued with a license by the state of California for testing self-driving vehicles on public roads.

Similarly, Didi and Udacity have a relationship that goes back years, the spokesperson for the online educator said. The company runs a machine-learning competition in China and as part of the agreement, Didi gets a sneak-peek at projects from the nanodegree students to see what may worth adopting in the company’s own fleet.

Ultimately, Thrun said Udacity wants to create its own self-driving car that could be on the streets of San Francisco later this year.

“We will be the only institution, I believe in the world, that would give a credential in this space,” Thrun said. “We decided at Udacity we wanted bleeding edge.”