The automotive industry is changing rapidly, much more quickly than at any point in the last 20 years. There’s a major shift towards green technologies and increased fuel economy, driven by both regulations and consumer demand. At the same time, consumers also want cars that offer a much better technological experience, like an iPad or iPhone. Consumer adoption of EVs has been much faster than that of hybrids, and this is only going to accelerate as the charging infrastructure improves, and battery performance and manufacturing advance to deliver more affordable EVs with longer driving ranges.

Cars have become so much more technologically advanced that it’s critical to understand areas outside of your field of expertise.

In the next 5 to 10 years, every car on sale will offer a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full EV variant, and the adoption rate of these technologies will increase dramatically. Markets in China and India will also likely play an even greater role than they already do. Additionally, electronic driver aids will continue to migrate down-market, with products like adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning becoming standard on most cars. Self-driving cars certainly have the opportunity to be a transformative technology. They have a long way to go before adoption on a wide scale occurs, but it is one of the more exciting automotive technologies of recent memory.

Manufacturing is always a challenge, and as the EV industry scales up, there is going to be a lot of room for people who can figure out how to reduce the cost of manufacturing the batteries, motors, and power electronics that are at the heart of electric cars. There’s still going to be a lot of work for engineers, but less focus on internal combustion engines than in the past 20 years. Expertise in batteries, electric motors, and advanced computer and electrical systems will become more highly valued, but in general all engineers will have to continue to be more well-rounded. Cars have become so much more technologically advanced that it’s critical to understand areas outside of your field of expertise.

One critically important yet underrated skill in the engineering sector is communication. Having the ability to effectively communicate the benefits or drawbacks of any new idea or technology to your peers is a crucial skill that many people lack, and is probably more valuable than a lot of technical skills that people work for. Apart from that, a good balance of hands-on technical skills and textbook or theoretical skills will be valuable. Lastly, the automotive industry, like many others, is changing rapidly: the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new environments is only going to become increasingly important.

I’ve loved cars all my life, so having the opportunity to come into work every day and design vehicles that people will be able to drive on the road is incredibly rewarding. It’s hard work, but the satisfaction of seeing something you designed drive past you on the street every so often is well worth it.

About the author

Nicholas Roche

Nicholas Roche is a mechanical engineer for Tesla Motors, a leading automaker of electric vehicles (EVs). He received undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.