India’s bad traffic and road conditions aren’t unknown to the world. Even if we take the example of metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bengaluru, it can take 2-3 hours to cover a 15 minutes distance during the rush hours. Hence, it came as no surprise that when the rest of the world was marching on towards autonomous cars tech, car manufacturers were a little sceptical about bringing their technology here. But, homegrown Tata group seems to have decided that they won’t let India fall behind in the driverless cars race.
According to a recently published report in the Business Standard newspaper, Tata Elxsi, which is a design company part of the Tata group, has applied for permission from Bengaluru authorities to test an autonomous car on the roads of the city.
Tata Elxsi isn’t an autonomous car built from the scratch. In fact, the design firm has repurposed two sedans, including one manufactured by Tata Motors itself, and assembled and adjusted them with a range of sensors and cameras to make them into autonomous cars. The repurposed cars have already had a successful spin at a facility on the outskirts of Bengaluru city.
It has been quite sometime that Tata Elxsi has been meticulously working on autonomous technology. Back in 2014, the company had repurposed a Tata Motors Zest sedan and then tested the car on a pre-determined route. According to them, the reason they chose Tata’s own car was because they knew about the car’s electronics architecture inside out and this actually made it comparatively easier to turn it into an autonomous car. Once they were finished, the car was taken to Pune to Tata Motors where about 100 technical staff took a ride in it along a pre-determined path. Then, in the year 2015, Tata Elxsi also unveiled its autonomous valet parking technology to the world at the CES, which is considered as the largest consumer technology trade show in the world.
According to Tata Elxsi’s head of marketing Nitin Pai’s statement to the Business Standard, the company’s main objective is to come up with an autonomous car framework that combines sensors, cameras and communications between vehicles and infrastructure, which could then be made available to the automotive industry all around the world. He said, “What we’re developing will be useful in many ways for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and suppliers of parts.”
The feasibility of autonomous cars on Indian roads is a debate that has been long-ongoing in the international tech market. We recently published an article about how a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group in collaboration with the World Economic Forum had revealed that as much as 85 percent of adult Indians are willing to ride in self-driving vehicles, a figure which is much higher than any other country which participated in the survey. While the survey said that Indians are ready to embrace the autonomous cars tech, nuTonomy’s CEO Karl Iagnemma doesn’t feels the same. nuTonomy, a MIT startup, has recently put self-driving cabs on the roads of Singapore. According to Iagnemma, there are four main things to consider the most in case of self-driving cars: regulatory environment, driving climate, infrastructure and the weather, and India lacks in almost all four them. According to him, India still has a long way to go when it comes to seeing the autonomous cars on road.
Now, whether Tata Elxsi is able to successfully launch an autonomous cars on the Indian roads anytime soon and prove the international tech market wrong, is a thing which we will have to wait and watch.