Essential Autonomous Vehicle Engineering Skills for the Next Decade

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Autonomous Vehicle Engineer

The automotive industry has dramatically changed over time. Car manufacturers have introduced several EVs and hybrid vehicles, with the market value expected to reach $45 million by 2040. Similarly, charging points are popping up in all previous gas stations, with events to showcase EV technologies becoming more common.

The mass adoption and increasing excitement around low-emission vehicles mean automotive engineers should upgrade their skills to match this trend. Fortunately, various training programs and online courses, such as the online masters in Electrical and computer engineering, are available for interested engineers. Automotive engineers should prioritize the following skills to remain competitive in the next decade.

1. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is the foundation of automotive design. However, modern mechanical engineering skills for automotive engineers extend beyond traditional mechanics. Mechanical engineering for modern vehicles is closely linked to electrification and advanced car manufacturing techniques. With modern vehicles moving towards electrification and autonomy, mechanical engineers should be equipped to identify opportunities and solve upcoming challenges. These include:

  • Vehicle architecture and design: Mechanical engineers conceptualize and design the vehicles’ architecture. They should ensure electric vehicles adapt to unique layouts guided by electric drivetrains and battery packs.
  • Aerodynamics: Aerodynamic design affects the vehicle’s fuel range and efficiency. Mechanical engineers should leverage wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics to improve vehicle shape.
  • Thermal management: Proper thermal management optimizes electric vehicles’ performance and components’ longevity. Engineers should design effective cooling systems for electric motors, combustion engines, and other components to avoid thermal-related issues.
  • Suspension systems: Mechanical engineers should design quality suspension systems for better comfort and handling. This requires appropriate springs, dampers, and advanced control systems for stability.

2. Electrical and Electronic Knowledge

Modern vehicles are increasingly becoming electrified. Automotive engineers should understand modern electrical and electronic systems better. They should be proficient in designing electrical architectures, actuators, sensors, and circuitry. The popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles also requires automotive engineers to understand battery technology, power electronics, fast-charging technologies, and other modern systems. Key changes that automotive engineers should learn include:

  • Electric powertrains: With the introduction of electric vehicles, automotive engineers should know how to develop high-performance electric powertrains.
  • Connectivity and infotainment: Modern customers prefer vehicles with connectivity features, such as V2X communication and infotainment systems. Engineers should be adept at handling wireless communication protocols, human-machine interfaces, and other features that improve the driving experience.
  • Sensor integration: Modern vehicles have sensors in almost all their components. Automotive engineers should know how to work around cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors that power advanced driver-assistance and autonomous vehicle features.

3. Energy Efficiency and Alternative Fuels

Energy efficiency has become a crucial topic in the automotive industry. Modern vehicle designs focus on combating the effects of climate change and the reliance on fossil fuels. Automotive engineers should be at the forefront of developing sustainable alternatives to enhance vehicle energy efficiency. This includes:

  • Electric vehicles: The introduction of electric vehicles improves energy efficiency and reduces carbon footprint. Engineers should find ways of enhancing battery life and charging infrastructure designs.
  • Hybrid powertrains: Automotive engineers should work on optimized hybrid powertrains. For instance, hybrid vehicles can generate energy during braking to improve fuel efficiency.
  • Eco-friendly fuels: Automotive engineers should experiment with eco-friendly fuels like synthetic, natural, and biofuels.
  • Lightweight materials: Using light materials for vehicle manufacturers reduces their weight, which improves energy efficiency. Lightweight materials, such as aluminum foil and carbon fiber composite, improve vehicle dynamics and energy efficiency.
  • Fuel cell technology: Exploring fuel cell technology, which uses hydrogen and emits water vapor, is the gateway to zero-emission vehicles. Automotive engineers should improve fuel cell safety and efficiency.

Energy-efficient designs and the use of alternative fuels are perfect opportunities that automotive engineers can leverage to contribute to environmental sustainability. 

4. Vehicle Cybersecurity

Modern vehicles are increasingly becoming a target for cyberattacks as they rely on software connectivity. Improving vehicle cybersecurity is important for the safety of drivers and passengers. Automotive engineers should learn basic cybersecurity principles and design secure systems with zero vulnerabilities. 


The automotive industry holds much potential in the next decade, driven by advancing technologies and sustainable practices. Engineers should equip themselves with diverse skills in electrical knowledge, programming, energy efficiency, and vehicle cybersecurity. They should also be ready and flexible to adapt to the rapidly changing automotive landscape.