Pima Community College, TuSimple launch autonomous driving certificate program for truck drivers

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Pima Community College (PCC) and TuSimple have announced the launch of the first autonomous driving certificate program for truck drivers.

Known as the “Autonomous Vehicle Driver and Operations Specialist” certificate program, the program will provide truck drivers with the knowledge and skills needed to expand their roles in the industry, as it prepares individuals for a variety of jobs including training the autonomous system as test drivers, operating the vehicle in situations where autonomous driving is not suitable and to remotely monitor the system from a command center.

“It’s clear that the future of truck transportation will offer new employment opportunities for today’s drivers but it will require a set of new skills,” says Lee Lambert, chancellor, Pima Community College.

“Working with TuSimple to develop this Autonomous Vehicle Driver and Operations Specialist certificate program ensures our students will build competencies in multiple areas – from logistics and information technology to automated industrial technology. These areas are being transformed by autonomy and drivers will need training in order to interact with autonomous trucks.”

In as quickly as one semester, the Autonomous Vehicle Driver and Operations Specialist certificate program will teach experienced truck drivers how to operate and work with autonomous trucks.

Before enrolling, drivers will need to have obtained a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), as they will build on their trucking knowledge with each course. The program is made up of five courses, which include Introduction to Autonomous Vehicles; Industrial Safety; Computer Hardware Components; Electrical Systems I and Transportation and Traffic Management.

The entities say that TuSimple will prioritize hiring graduates of the certificate program for jobs at its testing and development center in Tucson, Arizona. TuSimple has been operating its self-driving trucks out of Tucson, which also happens to be the location of PCC.

The program will be offered starting this September, with registration opening in August. PCC and TuSimple say that they will work with other schools interested in offering the same program.

“In keeping with TuSimple’s mission to create the safest autonomous driving fleet, an essential aspect of the training program is to ensure that drivers have access to appropriate training for this new technology and employment opportunities,” says Dr. Xiaodi Hou, founder, president and chief technology officer, TuSimple.

“We commend Pima Community College for offering this innovative and exciting program that can help address the acute driver shortage. The program offers driving professionals a smooth transition into an emerging field that requires different skill sets in addition to existing truck driving knowledge by providing training.”