Minus Zero, co-founded by Gagandeep Reehal and Gursimran Kalra, aims to make autonomous vehicle fleets common for the public across urban and rural areas. The bootstrapped startup aims to achieve it by creating and owning its own fleet. “We want the public to be able to ride in autonomous vehicles like they do in conventional cabs today,” says Reehal.
Minus Zero has its own proprietary autonomous driving system which, Reehal and Kalra claim as unique
and different from other systems in the market currently. “Many systems today need huge volumes of data. Ours doesn’t,” says Reehal.
“The system need not know the finer details of an obstacle but should know that it is an obstacle of a certain kind and navigate around it,” explains Kalra. On the roads, this would translate into a vehicle that can move on well-structured roads as well as unstructured paths, the team claims.
The Minus Zero team also says that the data collected by the vehicles will remain in them and the team will go to each vehicle to collect data offline, retaining the anonymity of the passenger and the ride. “It is a conscious measure we made to ensure privacy. With autonomous vehicles there is a possibility of transmitting real time data and it causes concerns to the riders,” says Reehal.
Minus Zero has successful tested its prototype in Jalandhar recently, in the form of an autonomous electric rickshaw. The prototype can identify traffic, obstacles, parking spaces, lanes and manoeuvre accordingly. The company aims to bring together different stakeholders from the EV supply chain. “Today in India, manufacturing EVs, batteries and setting up charging networks are slowly getting everyone’s attention. We are closely following some of the top brands, Indian and foreign. We are open to partnerships with manufacturers and exploring business models to have very affordable rides,” says Reehal.
One of the major challenges that autonomous vehicle designing companies face is how to handle the chaotic traffic condition of India. Minus Zero’s prototype tackles this problem along with the criterion of minimising the data collected. “This is a problem even large players such as Tesla is concerned about,” says Reehal. The next one being evolving government policies. The startup expects to see some drastic changes in policies governing autonomous vehicles in India in the next two to three years.
“Today the autonomous driving industry needs several regulations. It will help us improve our offering and also give more clarity on data privacy and security,” says Kalra. The duo feels that government intervention will further ease the production of autonomous vehicles and EVs and make partnerships much simpler. The company plans to roll out its first vehicle by 2023 in Bengaluru and expand to other parts of the country from there.
Author: Srinath Srinivasan