Developments like advancing technology, the transition to electronic vehicles (EVs) and progress toward autonomy are transforming the mobility industry — and dramatically increasing demand for software engineers. For skilled professionals capable of navigating the industry’s ever-changing digital frontier, big opportunities exist at every turn.
Vehicles are no longer only mechanical marvels, but complex computers on wheels requiring interoperability between their software and “hardware” systems. As manufacturers continue to embrace cutting-edge technologies that enhance performance and the driving experience — like advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and over-the-air update capabilities — the nature of vehicle development is changing, at the same time that development cycles are accelerating. This results in massive, continuous growth across the global software-defined vehicles (SDVs) market, with experts predicting it to reach more than six times its 2022 value by 2032.
The shift toward EVs is one of the pivotal forces behind the surge in demand for software engineers in the mobility sector. As governmental initiatives targeting climate change, like the U.S. 2050 net-zero strategy, push for a faster transition to EVs, the need for skilled engineers capable of developing and maintaining the large-scale electronic systems at EVs’ core will continue to expand. This is prompting a reckoning across the mobility labor market, with manufacturers re-allocating resources in order to offer higher-salaried engineers separation packages and entice them to aid in the transition from “automotive company” to “sustainable tech mobility company.” In addition to EVs, the industry’s focus on autonomous vehicles (which rely on highly sophisticated software and, commonly, deep machine learning capabilities to guide the vehicle through driving environments) will only continue to amplify the need for software engineers.
Software powers many features that consumers expect from modern vehicles, from infotainment systems and navigation to sensor-based ADAS — and as vehicle features continue to advance, the software behind them will only become more complex. This increasing complexity demands a higher level of technical expertise among software engineers, placing them at the forefront of mobility innovation. However, manufacturers must find the balance between the resources necessary for maintenance of existing systems and future development. Some reports show that software complexity has increased by a factor of 4 in recent years, while productivity in software development increased only to about 1-1.5. Both the maintenance and innovation functions require the expertise of software engineers, contributing to the industry-wide need for professionals in this role.
It’s clear that this is a time of opportunity for software engineers — especially for those interested in building the vehicles of the future. Mobility companies, from established manufacturers to forward-thinking startups, are actively seeking professionals with a strong foundation in software development and an understanding of automotive systems. In addition to high salaries ($120,730 median salary, with 26% growth expected over the next 10 years), the work comes with opportunities to leverage creative thinking and problem-solving skills, while making valuable contributions to transportation’s next phase.
While software engineers might be stealing the spotlight in today’s mobility industry, mechanical and electrical engineering expertise remains critical for future innovation. Vehicles might contain as much software as a computer operating system, but they also require electrical and mechanical parts — and those parts have to work with rapidly changing software systems. As the world moves toward EVs and sustainability becomes even more of a global focus, mechanical and electrical engineers may very well find themselves in the spotlight, since they will play critical roles in everything from vehicle design to materials selection to production. Ultimately, the vehicles of tomorrow will be born out of collaboration across engineering disciplines.