The Auto Industry Courts Laid-Off Tech Workers

Tech workers are needed now to help build the cars of the future.

The layoffs by Google, Meta, Amazon, and other tech giants have been a boon for the auto industry. Indeed, a variety of software skills are required to develop new concepts and build tomorrow’s cars. Because auto makers’ recruiting efforts face some stiff competition from other sectors, they are creating an attractive workplace for techies.

Video Spotlight: The Future of Driving? | Coding the Car | MotorTrend (September 15, 2022, MotorTrend Channel)

This post is based on the Bloomberg Businessweek article, Laid-Off Tech Workers Are Just What the Auto Industry Needs, by G. Coppola, January 19, 2023, and the YouTube video in the Spotlight. Image source: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.

Discussion Questions:

1. Explain why automakers’ operations require a broad range of software skills.

Guidance: Today’s cars are highly computerized, and the trend is toward more computerization. To design and manufacture the new generation of cars, tech experts are needed. Software knowledge and skills are used for idea generation; computer-aided design; computer-aided manufacturing with robots, cobots (collaborative robots), CNC machines, and virtual product testing; purchasing, order processing, production planning and control, inventory management, and distribution; etc. As the amount of data collected increases (see video), experts in data science and big data analytics are required as well. As the cars of the future become more customized and “learn” their drivers’ habits, the demand for AI programming skills increases. Finally, a growing number of tech workers must develop and maintain the IT infrastructure supporting the increased computerization of the workplace and of the products themselves.

2. How do auto manufacturers transform the workplace to attract and retain the employees that will develop the cars of the future?

Guidance: To attract the employees that will develop the cars of the future, automakers encourage flexible work settings (e.g., remote work) and increase pay and benefits. To spur idea generation and productive collaboration, they also create standalone units where a culture of new thinking can develop and prosper. Finally, they also retrain their employees as expert coders and can provide software learning resources for continuous personal development.

3. According to the video, what is a software-designed vehicle? How do data analytics help develop the vehicles that people want?

Guidance: There are many answers to the first question, but they all refer to a user-centric, flexible, constantly evolving car with updates powered by AI and with interoperability to connect with smart cities; cars are no longer one-time purchases. As people drive, data (anonymized or user-authorized) are collected to uncover patterns in driving behaviors, update car modules, continuously customize cars and make them safer, and even recommend the best vehicles for them in the future.

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