A while ago, Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick jokingly said that India will be the last place on the planet to see the company’s self-driving cars on its roads. His reasons for the statement were simple; according to him, the driving patterns that road users and drivers or riders follow in the country aren’t favourable for self-driving cars.
Prior to Kalanick’s statement, Karl Iagnemma, nuTonomy’s CEO had echoed the same sentiments about India and self-driving cars. nuTonomy is a MIT startup that has recently decided to put self-driving cabs on the roads of Singapore.
While the world might be skeptic about the future of self-driving cars in the country, the youngsters in the country are focused on proving them wrong. Teams at the most prestigious institute in the country, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) are currently meticulously working on ‘autonomous vehicle solutions’ or driverless solutions of their own. The students are focused on developing the ideal technology for tackling Indian roads. The projects have reportedly already caught the attention of various leading Indian automotive companies.
The IIT teams are now gearing up to compete for the Rise Prize by Mahindra, which gives a chance to two teams to win a prize money of $1 mn for two projects, the Solar Challenge and the Driverless Car Challenge. The participating teams includes teams from IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur and IIT Bombay, among many others.
The team at IIT Kharagpur is currently testing the autonomous vehicles that they have built from ground up within their campus. IIT Kanpur has plans similar to its Kharagpur counterpart. After their respective universities, the cars will be then tested on Indian roads.
The Mahindra Group’s Driverless Car Challenge has a total of 31 shortlisted teams that have to build a driverless car that will work not only work on civilised Western roads, but also work smoothly in tricky Indian traffic scenarios.
IIT Bombay and Kharagpur are also individually testing their technology on Mahindra’s electric car, Mahindra E2O. They plan to turn the car into a driverless car as part of the Mahindra RISE Prize Driverless Car Challenge.
While Uber and nuTonomy aren’t sure about seeing their autonomous vehicles on Indian roads anytime soon, a recent survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group has revealed that as much as 85 percent of adult Indians are willing to ride in self-driving vehicles. So, let’s see if the Indian institutes are able to realise this particular dream of the Indian citizens.