A prime spot to witness the talent war firsthand is at university career fairs, where physical constraints can often pose the biggest challenges.
"There's only so much room that we have," said Kevin Collins, a career adviser in Carnegie Mellon University's computer science department who works with companies looking to recruit its students. "A couple years ago, we doubled our interview rooms," said Collins. But since then, "there's been a flood of companies interested in talking with our students. We're booked."
Companies such as GM and Delphi have shown up to scout talent from one of the best robotics programs in the world. Uber famously raided Carnegie Mellon's robotics faculty to launch its autonomous vehicle program.
The field may account for only a slice of the computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon, but even in this small area, competition is fierce. The same skill sets required of an engineer working on self-driving vehicles could be used at Amazon to improve its complex logistical operation or at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to put rockets in space.
Of the 283 bachelor's, master's and doctoral students who graduated from Carnegie Mellon's computer science department in 2016, just six went to work in the auto industry, according to a self-reported survey of graduates provided by the university.
"The challenge for [automakers] is to compete with the Microsofts and the Googles. It's a smaller pool of people and ever-increasing number of companies," said Collins.