Kevin Vincent, Director at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Automotive Research (CCAAR) at Coventry University explores how we need to build a broad pipeline of talent to keep the sector on track. Coventry University is a member of CAM Testbed UK through its partnership with HORIBA MIRA.
With the automotive industry seeing such a high rate of technology development across the globe, the corresponding rise in skills shortages – where too few engineers are qualified to support the needs of emerging technologies – is increasing. Kevin Vincent explains the importance of addressing the skills gap when it comes to connected and automated mobility.
Connected and automated mobility (CAM) is developing at pace with the automated vehicle industry expected to create 10,000 net additional jobs in the UK by 2035. Whilst this is a positive forecast for the UK economy, what cannot be overlooked is the urgent corresponding need to ensure a strong pipeline of skills within the automotive industry to equip our next generation of leaders.
As CAM develops and new technologies emerge, the existing skills gap within the industry will continue to grow, with skills consideration needed around not just the development of these new technologies, but their deployment too, to ensure the ongoing safe operation of connected and automated vehicles.
In order for the UK to be a world leader in CAM, Zenzic, through consultation with industry and academia, concluded that we need roles spanning technology educators, cybersecurity researchers and ethical hackers, upskilled mechanics, computer scientists, AI ethics researchers and simulation modelling engineers, among many others. Not only do we need to develop these new technologies, but we must be prepared to understand and manage long-term how these technologies are embedded and deployed, with consideration needed on everything from what a new form of MOT test may look like, how we can protect CAVs from cyber-attacks whilst deployed on public roads and how to certify safe operation of an autonomous vehicle where there is uncertainty regarding defined use cases. These involve regulatory and ultimately insurance issues, which require close collaboration between government, industry (including trade associations and networks) and academia to explore the unforeseen consequences of CAV implementation. Necessary skills required or in short supply must be identified, and policies must be developed and implemented to feed research learning in these new mobility systems, into educational programmes fit for purpose.
The growing skills shortage will not halt the development of the autonomous vehicle industry, but it could seriously delay its development, hurting customer expectation and potentially affecting uptake of services at scale, resulting in the initial return on investment for businesses taking much longer to be realised. Furthermore, the socio-economic benefits expected, such as reducing congestion and pollution and improving productivity, will take longer to come to fruition.
New and disruptive ownership models present both issues and opportunities to traditional vehicle manufacturers and new entrants alike, regarding individual design and brand identity. While the technology push is making strides into providing solutions, there are still a lot of questions to be answered around the market pull in terms of who wants (or trusts and accepts) new mobility services, and whether the industry risks excluding sections of society, such as the rural or the vulnerable. Consequently, there is also a requirement to improve education in topics such as legal and insurance issues, infrastructure planning and user-centred design to ensure accessibility, trust and acceptance, enabling the undoubted socio-economic benefits of connected and automated mobility to be realised.
Over the past decade as new CAM technology has been developed, much has already been done to address the skills gap. We’ve seen government and industry investment with one such example The Automotive Industrial Partnership, an industry collaboration supported by government developed to ensure a pipeline of skills for the future. We’ve also seen the development of academia and industry partnerships, such as the MIRA Technology Institute, a bespoke global centre for skills developing specialist skills in key areas of emerging automotive technology, and the Centre for Connected Autonomous Automotive Research (CCAAR) – a collaboration between HORIBA MIRA and Coventry University to create an automotive research centre dedicated to developing intelligent, connected vehicle technology. CCAAR’s core objective is to undertake research to accelerate the development of new products and services in the CAV segment whilst producing a pipeline of talent to support growth of the CAV segment. These initiatives are all focussing on developing a stairway of talent, from STEM programmes to apprenticeships, degree and PhD level education, working with organisations such as SEMI to promote the sector as an attractive career option to undergraduates.
A number of Master’s level courses have also been developed in CAV and are now beginning to be delivered by the likes of Coventry University, Warwick Manufacturing Group and Cranfield for example. In particular, the MSc in CAV from Coventry has been developed with much industry input from our partners HORIBA MIRA who will also share in the delivery of the course through the MIRA Technology Institute to ensure it meets the needs of industry. Coventry University has also developed a range of automotive cybersecurity short courses and continuing professional development credit bearing courses aimed at managers, leaders and technical specialists to educate for a resilient CAV service.
Whilst the rate of development within the CAM sector not only requires new skills for the future workforce, we must not overlook the opportunities to be realised through re-skilling our existing talent pool. Coventry University, as a core partner of the CAM Testbed UK ecosystem, is addressing this by working with industry bodies such as the Automotive Electronics Systems Innovation Network (AESIN) and the UK Electronics Skills Foundation ‘Skills Academy’. Activities such as the formation of the AESIN Skill Advisory Board will collectively promote outreach into industry to articulate the requirements and training solutions that offer routes to progression for existing employees.
As we progress on the road to a future of connected and automated mobility, it’s increasingly important that we don’t overlook the wide range of skills needed to realise this future, working collaboratively across industry, government and academia to ensure they are not only introduced, but embedded in for the future of our sector. Whilst the pieces of the puzzle appear to be largely in place to facilitate sector needs, the next step is to build the pipeline of future talent by succeeding in attracting the numbers of new entrants to further and higher education.
To find out more about the Centre for Connected Autonomous Automotive Research, visit their website.
This article was originally published in Autonomous Testing Technology International publication.
 UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030, Zenzic