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

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Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Ina Fried, author of Login
25 mins ago - Science

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.

Ted Cruz doesn't think the Hunter Biden attacks are working

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told "Axios on HBO" he doesn't think the Trump campaign's focus on the Biden family's business dealings are having any sway with voters.

The big picture: After watching the Trump-Biden debate with "Axios on HBO" on Thursday night, Cruz said he thought Trump had done very well. But when asked whether he thought voters were moved by the release of the Hunter Biden emails, Cruz replied, "I don't think it moves a single voter."