I really like the image of a solitary guy sitting at the edge of Africa :-)
Lots of great questions!
For the nanodegree, we’ll be covering the key topics in autonomous vehicles, which include deep learning, computer vision, robotics, sensors, and automotive hardware. Beyond that, I don’t mean to be too much of a tease, but we’re hammering out the curriculum and will have a more detailed announcement soon!
The best way to prepare for this Nanodegree is by getting up to speed on Python, which you can do through Udacity’s free Programming Foundations with Python course. Some basic knowledge of linear algebra will also be helpful, which you can pick up through Udacity’s Linear Algebra Refresher course. For more advanced prep, Udacity’s Machine Learning Nanodegree is awesome and will be a great intro to this program, as will Udacity’s free Artificial Intelligence for Robotics course.
To your other questions, the Self-Driving Car Nanodegree will focus mainly on the software, sensors, and hardware required to build an autonomous vehicle. This includes discussions of actuation and powertrains, but we will be focusing primarily on the autonomous parts of the vehicle.
Finally, I would love to see what a purely autonomous vehicle environment would look like, perhaps with increased speed limits and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. But I think self-driving cars will mostly have to function in the world as it already exists, which presents its own set of challenges!