Ridesharing company Lyft has announced plans to partner with online credentialing and nanodegree company Udacity to begin offering scholarships to learners who want to develop self-driving cars.
Officials say that the program is designed to invite minorities into racially homogenous STEM maker space – a move that at once slaps at competitor Uber’s issues with diversity, and champions black and Latino creators coming into the future of transportation commerce.
Diversity is crucial for creating solutions that serve everyone, and ridesharing is for everyone. That’s why these scholarships will specifically target communities that are underrepresented in technology in the US.
It is a program that could only fly with private partnerships in the for-profit sector, because non-profit schools with similar goals in program development face long, tedious processes in getting approval from internal faculty stakeholders, accrediting agencies, and state authorization guidelines.
But the new program should invite conversation in the HBCU community about the institutions and programs best positioned to take advantage of Lyft’s scholarship offering, and in future research and development strategies with the military, Department of Transportation, and other startups which may invade the space of redefining American commuting and traveling.
Five HBCUs are uniquely positioned for this kind of development. In no particular order:
Spelman College – Spelman has special expertise in undergraduate robotics and computer science training, and as the nation’s premier institution for educating black women, is a natural incubator for public and private organizations looking to fund minority startups for ridesharing, mass transportation and its commercial possibilities.
Morgan State University – With nationally acclaimed programs in engineering and business and a national transportation center, Baltimore’s flagship HBCU is well-positioned to offer perspective on how to design and incorporate self-driving technology in metropolitan and suburban settings with traffic control and technology advancement.
North Carolina A&T State University – The historically black engineering capital of the world is proximate to one of the nation’s fastest growing automotive hubs, and is home to influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill who could champion legislative and appropriation pathways for the school. Plus, A&T has experience with self-driving car tech.
Tuskegee University – TU’s mechanical engineering program and growing imprint in material sciences makes it an ideal partner for companies like Lyft and automakers like Tesla for self-driving system development and making cars safer and better performing with research on parts and exterior design.
Alabama A&M University – With strong programs in mechanical, civil and electrical engineering, AAMU is a partner in making recommendations on how roads can be improved for the future of self-driving technology, as well as systems for navigation and detection.