By Raghav Karinja
The automotive industry is on the brink of a disruptive revolution – moving away from vehicles that run on fossil fuels to electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous or self-driving vehicles (AVs) that leverage digital technologies to navigate traffic without human intervention. India has been in the news for the recent uptake on EVs. While currently, only 1% of the three million cars sold every year in India are EVs, the government is ambitious to grow this to 30% by 2030.
The future of mobility in India is driven by three forces that amplify the overall outcome – market forces in a cost-conscious yet value-driven consumer, technology that’s adapted to Indian conditions, and a forward-looking regulatory environment facilitating the industry shifts. In addition, the global trends – personalised mobility, autonomous, pervasive connectivity, electrification, and shared mobility (PACES) are influencing next-gen mobility.
Analysing the market through the technology lens, India has embraced connected, electrification-shared, and personalised mobility quite rapidly. The adoption has been fuelled by pervasive connectivity at significantly low data rates along with paradigm shifts towards mobility as a service while retaining personalisation and a perceptible value for the consumer. India has one of the largest, fastest growing two and three-wheeler electric vehicles segment in the world. However, the pace of adoption of AVs in India is still quite low despite India emerging as the third-largest auto market in the world.
The adoption of autonomous technologies has been slower due to challenges of infrastructure, legislature, and a shift in consumer mindset of disciplined driving. The reasons are many:
Lack of proper infrastructure: AV relies heavily on advanced sensing, communication, and positioning technologies; and a pre-requisite for this is robust infrastructure, which India currently lacks.
Lack of regulations: Dearth of comprehensive regulations in India governing the use of AVs is a major roadblock for the development and testing of new technologies as well as for user adoption.
Disciplined driving: The prevailing conditions of aggressive driving and lax adherence to traffic rules add risk in operating AVs on public roads.
AV technology could revolutionise several industries
In India, adoption will be driven by business applications that go beyond consumer vehicles. If you look at the startup ecosystem, it is thriving with innovation in areas such as agriculture, fleet management, and shuttles, and the top 10 startups are focused in this area. The technologies are engineered for the Indian market considering the unique conditions. Let us look at a few use cases beyond the passenger segment relevant to the Indian market.
Driverless tractors in agriculture are a huge boost to farmer productivity by automating routine tasks thereby letting the farmer focus on value-added activities. Similarly, the accuracy of planting, raking, and other activities increase efficiency leading to better returns. Real-time data collection is an added advantage through a network of these tractors.
Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs) on the shopfloor and warehouses are other industrial applications. AMRs are flexible as they don’t follow prescribed paths like Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV). They can be scaled as per need, provide increased safety for repeatable tasks, and can be integrated with manufacturing systems for end-to-end automation.
Hospitals can improve access to medical facilities with automated, eco-friendly vehicles that are accessible by patients with mobility challenges or are equipped with medical devices. Even inter-building transfer of patients using automated vehicles can improve healthcare access. In fact, similar controlled environments, such as educational campuses or retirement homes can benefit from EV providing shuttle services.
Finally, there are multiple capabilities such as assisted driving, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), pedestrian detection, emergency cut-off, parking assistance, and valet parking to name a few that are part of autonomous driving. While full-fledged autonomous driving may not be a reality soon, each of these technological capabilities progressively assists the driver and make the vehicle safer.
The future of transport will be faster, cleaner, and seamlessly integrated
A mix of policy, infrastructure, public-private partnership, R&D investment, and development of the entire ecosystem is critical for autonomous vehicle adoption in India. There is a need for research and development for mapping Indian roads, which organisations such as ARAI have taken a step towards.
Like the telecom revolution, the autonomous vehicle revolution is waiting to happen in India and reverse innovation will occur in other markets. We can look forward to decluttering the currently congested roads in Indian cities and breathe cleaner air as we create the policies to encourage innovation and adoption of new automotive technologies.
The author is – Global Head of Engineering, IOT and Blockchain practice at Infosys.
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