Chiratae, Nvidia Execs -backed Minus Zero Unveils India's 1st Autonomous Car zPod

Bengaluru-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup Minus Zero has just unveiled India's first autonomous/ driverless car — z-Pod.

With z-Pod, Minus Zero achieved fully autonomous driving using only cameras. The young startup dubbed its cutting-edge AI technology — 'Nature-Inspired AI'. The startup's proprietary technology is less dependent on extensive data and costly sensors like LIDAR, and is tailored to Indian roads.

Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and TCM Sundaram Founder and Vice Chairman of Chiratae Ventures take the first ride in the Z Pod.

Founded in 2021, by Gagandeep Reehal and Gursimran Kalra, Minus Zero raised $1.7 million in seed round funding in May 2021, which was led by Chiratae Ventures, JITO Angel Network, a few senior executives from chipmaker NVIDIA and Uber competitor – Lyft.

z-Pod do not have a steering wheel and the strategically-placed high-resolution cameras help the car in analysing driving conditions, which includes traffic.

The surroundings of the autonomous vehicle are captured in a camera-sensor suite which is shared with the AI system embedded in it. In turn, the information is processed by the AI through images to help zPod control its speed, avoid obstacles, and stop.

The startup claimed that the self-driven car can be scaled up to "Level 5" autonomy, which is the ultimate level of autonomy for driver-less vehicles , where the driver does not have to be in control at all during travel, and the vehicle can handle any road condition, type of weather, and no longer be bound to geo-fenced locations.

With z-Pod, Minus Zero has achieved an industry breakthrough in autonomous vehicles sector by bringing down the cost of vehicle from R&D to production by eliminating the usage of high-cost technologies & apparatus. It also minimized the use of large data for training the AI model.

The startup has earlier developed an autonomous three-wheeler prototype for Indian roads. It used an AI that can extract 3D information from a 2D camera image with comparable accuracy.

In the e-Rickshaw, Minus Zero installed eight 2D cameras function as the ‘eyes of the vehicle’ and gather data, the radars and ultrasonics work as backup data collectors in case one or more cameras fail.

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