It is not very common to come across a 17-year-old who knows where he is headed, let alone has built something and very rarely does that something turn out to be an autonomous vehicle. When I heard of Saad Nasser, Co-founder of Ati Motors, I was amazed at his accomplishments at 17! Saad’s childhood out of the ordinary. At 1, he did not play with toys and by 3 he was dismantling and rebuilding them. He had completed online courses from Stanford by 10 and by 11 he has taken up several online courses from MIT and University of Michigan.
At 17, he would have it no other way and believes that learning in life can never stop, however, it is not necessary that one only learns in the four walls of an educational institution. Read about his experience of building Sherpa, India’s first autonomous EV (industrial vehicle) and his views on education and lifelong learning.
What does the future of work mean in the space of AI and autonomous vehicles?
Autonomy isn't an end goal, but just the first step towards reimagining how we work. We are digitising a material movement endpoint to be autonomous. This will enable workloads that we couldn't even imagine before.
What excites you most about your autonomous vehicle, Sherpa? Three most valuable lessons you have learned by building it that everyone should know.
Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and there is nothing more magical than a vehicle being able to move from point A to point B all on its own. To me, that's the most exciting thing about building Sherpa.
Building Sherpa has really underscored the importance of multidisciplinary engineering to me. Exciting new technologies are created when you combine people with varying and diverse skillsets together, to not only expand the problem space you can tackle, but the solution space available as well.
Building physical systems is not something to take lightly. It takes a significant amount of capital and time to even get a prototype up and running. Unlike software, it's hard to quickly get an initial version up, and then iterate on it. You need to factor in near-future requirements in the design stage.
It's important to think about regulatory concerns early in the design stage for cutting edge technology, as this is not something you can retrofit later on in the design.
For someone who is self-taught, what have been the most important skills to pick up?
I would say it's the ability to reason from first principles, to always question why things are the way they are.
According to you, what are the three most important skills of the future?
It's hard to name any particular skills, but I think it's very important to have a multidisciplinary skillset. A lot of exciting problems often lie on the boundaries between disciplines.
Do you think teenagers today should be given the liberty to plan their education differently?
Yes, definitely. A one size fits all approach invariably doesn't work for everybody.
What has the role of mentors in your life been?
No journey is complete without a guide. There is only so much you can learn or do on your own. The feedback and course correction that a good mentor gives is invaluable. I was lucky to have some great mentors who helped me grow in every way.
Do you see more young people like you – what would your advice to them be?
There's no one way to go about it, I think you should just go ahead and build things.Nisha Ramchandani is the principal author of 'The Future of Work' series.
Published Date: Sep 27, 2019 09:09 PM | Updated Date: Sep 27, 2019 09:09 PM IST