Comparing Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Programs

Which of Udacity’s two Self-Driving Car programs is right for you? This post will show you how to make the right choice.

Udacity has two excellent Nanodegree Programs for aspiring self-driving car engineers: the Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program, and the Intro to Self-Driving Cars Nanodegree program.

Which one is right for you?

To try and answer this question, I’ll begin with a story. In October of 2016, Udacity welcomed the first class of students into our Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program. Since that historic debut, we have been delighted to enroll over 11,000 students around the world in this program!

Along the way, we learned that while people across the globe were thrilled at the prospect of being able to work on autonomous vehicles, not all of them were equipped to do so—many of them needed additional training to get ready for the rigors and challenges of our curriculum.

In order to provide a viable point-of-entry for these eager learners, we built the Intro to Self-Driving Cars Nanodegree Program, and welcomed the first class of students at the end of 2017. This “Intro” program prepares students with the fundamentals in Python, C++, calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and physics that are necessary to become a Self-Driving Car Engineer.

Both Nanodegree programs are paths to a career in the self-driving car field, but the goals of each program are distinct, as are the skills one learns.

The Self-Driving Car Engineer (SDC) Nanodegree program is an advanced program in which students write programs in Python and C++, and learn new frameworks like ROS and TensorFlow. Students entering SDC should be able to write programs from scratch, and should be comfortable with both calculus and linear algebra. SDC does not require solving differential equations by hand, but does require that students be comfortable interpreting mathematical notation and translating it into code.

The Intro to Self-Driving Cars (iSDC) Nanodegree program is an intermediate program that requires entering students to have only minimal programming and math knowledge. Students entering iSDC should be comfortable reading and modifying code in at least one language (Python helps, since that is first language the program uses). Entering students should also be comfortable with high-school algebra. From there, iSDC teaches the trigonometry, calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and physics that are necessary to succeed in the advanced SDC program.

iSDC does not require an application to enroll, and everybody is welcome. However, students with no programming experience at all might consider starting their journey with Udacity’s Intro to Programming Nanodegree program, and then proceeding on to Intro to Self-Driving Cars. A slightly more mathematical (and more challenging) alternative first step would be Udacity’s Data Analyst Nanodegree Program.

Whether you are ready for the Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program today or feel like you should cover the topics in Intro to Self-Driving Cars first, Udacity is the place to start on the road to becoming a Self-Driving Car Engineer. See you in the classroom!

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