Remember Bruce Willis and Justin Long in a scene from Die Hard 4 where the cop is trying to hot wire a BMW car equipped with a connected vehicle system. Justin hits the front of the car, intentionally, with a trash can to deploy airbags. This triggers an automated calling system of the car which then contacts the emergency services. The future of a safer driving experience has already made its way to developed countries and is on its way to India since our country has one of the highest road fatalities in the world. On the contrary, the evolution of the Indian automotive industry has not just moved forward but leapfrogged where vehicles are now faster, more feature rich, but, safety is an aspect which is not much of a preference while buying a vehicle.
That said, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has been working with a number of national as well as international agencies in order to make India's roads safer while travelling faster. Making dual front airbags as well as ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) as a standard fitment on all cars while ABS mandatory for all two-wheelers above the 125 cc segment is already a proposal submitted by the Ministry and is expected to be implemented soon. However, one critical aspect when an accident occurs is the immediate help an injured road user would need. There would be a good samaritan who would often help, but there are limitations. What if the nearest hospital to the accident site is unable to treat the victim which would mean losing critical time hopping from one medical centre to another. This is where connected car technology comes in. The system is designed in a way that as soon as an accident is detected in a connected car, a central call centre gets the alert which tries to contact the passenger of the vehicle. Once a conversation with the victim is established, the call centre then asks if any of the occupants are injured and accordingly send emergency services. The system also works in case the vehicle has a breakdown. Currently, Bosch is working with a number of Indian OEMs to supply this technology in their passenger cars as well as commercial vehicles.
How does this system work? The solution for these aspects is available across the platform right from two-wheelers to four-wheeled passenger vehicles as well as all categories of commercial vehicles. The system, which is essentially an OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) port connects to the vehicle ECU (Engine Control Unit) and extracts all the relevant information. These parameters include vehicle fitness, driving patterns, impact alert, sudden braking and many related aspects. This information is securely stored on a cloud platform for consumers to view at any given time after which they can assess the best way to drive or ride their vehicle.
While this system enables a critical aspect of road safety and the first aid reaching the victims as soon as possible, the future of connected cars is way beyond this one aspect. Various companies, as well as STU (State Transport Undertakings), are exploring other opportunities which include better fleet management, vehicle diagnostics, FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) updates, accident recorder (similar to an aeroplane's black box) alongside a complete communication between a vehicle and an individual. Vehicle diagnostics is also being offered in some of the existing systems along with location sharing, a trip analysis that can enable a vehicle owner to have complete information about the whereabouts of their vehicle. Fleet management along with vehicle diagnostics would enable commercial fleet owners as well as STUs to track the vehicle and assess if one or more vehicles need to be serviced or repaired. This would, in turn, reduce downtime or breakdowns which also results in lower productive time for any fleet. FOTA would enable updates to the infotainment system, just like a smartphone.
The Indian automotive industry is evolving at a rapid rate which is evident for a number of features that are now becoming mainstream in most vehicles. The presence of active and passive safety systems has also seen a rapid increase in regard with a potential customer as well as OEMs since India has been on the backfoot in this aspect for quite some time. The road ahead is long, but according to Vijay Pandey, Regional President, Automotive Aftermarket, Bosch India, it is a matter of another four years that the consumer, as well as manufacturers, would start to fully adopt connected driving systems for better management as well as safety.