Top coder Tiancheng Lou, also known as “ACRush” and “Bishop Lou,” recently joined Baidu to pursue his interest in autonomous driving.

Tiancheng has a history with Baidu, having won the national Baidu Programming Contest in 2005 while at Tsinghua University. Additionally, Tiancheng won Google’s Code Jam competition in 2008 and 2009. Previously, he worked at Quora and Google.

We sat down with Tiancheng to learn more about his passion for coding and his decision to join the Baidu team.

Tiancheng Lou (left) discusses image perception with James Peng, Chief Architect of Baidu Autonomous Driving Unit.

Tiancheng Lou (left) discusses image perception with James Peng, Chief Architect of Baidu Autonomous Driving Unit.

Q: Tiancheng, how did you become such a good coder?

Tiancheng: First of all, you need to be strong in math. I’ve had a great interest in math since I was kid and that created a good foundation for me. Second, practice, practice, practice! I’ve participated in over 100 programming competitions in the past ten years.

Q: Why are you interested in autonomous driving?

Tiancheng: This is a technology that will have a real and profound impact. I like the fact that my technical input will make a difference in the real world. I am good at applying theory into practice and making it work. In many cases, a theory or an algorithm works perfectly in a research paper, but it won’t necessarily work well in practice.

Q: What attracted you to the Baidu team?

Tiancheng: I believe Baidu’s autonomous driving project is at the stage where I can make a significant contribution. I am drawn to the fact that Baidu has a concrete plan and roadmap to ship this technology in the near future, rather than solely a research-oriented goal.

Q: Do you have advice for children who are interested in computers? What language should they learn first?

Tiancheng: Assuming that the pressure on you from school and other activities is at a reasonable level, I think high school is a good time to get exposed to programming. In terms of specific languages, C++ is the most critical. You cannot skip this one if you want to be a good coder. Other than that, Python and Java are very important too.

One piece of advice I would give is to have the right expectation when you learn to program. Programming can help improve your logical reasoning, which is a skill that benefits you for a lifetime. Don’t think of programming simply as a shortcut to get you into a better college or get you a better job.

Learn to code for the fun of it! In the process, you will improve your reasoning and problem solving abilities.