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Software designers can work almost anywhere, but writing code for a self-driving car tends to be a hands-on exercise — engineers need to directly experience how a vehicle performs and hone software as needed.

The big picture: Companies that design autonomous vehicles are maturing and beginning to rethink that convention. There's a war for talent across all tech industries, requiring AV companies to get creative to attract the top experts.

What's happening: In Silicon Valley, which is the heart of the self-driving industry, AV startups are competing with gold-plated compensation packages from deep-pocketed tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Google.

  • Plus, many people can't afford to live in Silicon Valley or won't move there.
  • One example is at Cruise, GM's San Francisco-based self-driving subsidiary, where 10 of the 42 senior engineers working for VP Tim Piastrelli's security team are working remotely from places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Voyage was an early pioneer in hiring remote engineers to work on self-driving technology. The Palo Alto-based startup, which raised $31 million this week, is piloting automated ride-hailing shuttles in a Florida retirement community and began experimenting with the arrangement about a year ago.

  • Early on, engineers really did have to be physically close to the car in Palo Alto, Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron tells Axios.
  • As the company matured and expanded testing, hands-on engineering instead became a "pain point," he says, so the company built tools that would let engineers work from anywhere.
  • Voyage now has veterans from Apple, SpaceX and Twitter working on critical AV projects in places like Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Boise.

How it works: Reliable simulation, along with powerful cloud computing and other tools to manage the massive amounts of raw data collected daily from self-driving test vehicles, make it possible, Cameron explains in a blog post.

  • Vehicle data can be quickly downloaded by an engineer who can iterate rapidly and test those changes in simulated environments.
  • When something can't be validated virtually, it can still be tested by human operators in the vehicle.

Yes, but: Hands-on vehicle experience remains critical to most hiring managers at AV companies, says Jessica Robinson, executive director of the nonprofit Michigan Mobility Institute.

What's next: There's "a very obvious ceiling" to remote hiring in the AV industry as self-driving cars move out of the design phase and begin to proliferate on roadways, Brookings Institution fellow Adie Tomer tells Axios.

  • At that point, the workforce will shift to managing AV fleets, a decidedly hands-on occupation where it will be critical for redundant teams to work side-by-side.

Go deeper: Imported self-driving shuttles have an edge over their U.S. rivals

Go deeper

24 mins ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary published Sunday.

Why it matters: Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier was used as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government.

Ina Fried, author of Login
4 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.