Tata Motors has begun testing an autonomous version of its flagship vehicle – the Hexa. The autonomous Hexa was spotted testing in the UK, where Tata Motors’ European engineering center is based. Tata Motors European Technical Centre is situated in Coventry, UK, and the Hexa was spotted testing on the city’s roads. However, there is a driver present in the car at all times to handle things in case the autonomous systems fails.
On the Hexa, Tata is testing a range of autonomous car technologies. Many of these technologies will eventually be available on regular Tata cars. These are, 1. Emergency Vehicle Warning (EVW) which is meant to alert the autonomous car to emergency vehicles like ambulances, police cars, etc. 2. Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) system that warns the autonomous car about other vehicles approaching the intersection and 3. Intersection Priority Management (IPM) that tells which among two autonomous vehicles get right of way at an intersection.
Tata Motors is also developing autonomous vehicle technology that is tailormade for Indian conditions through its technology subsidiary in Bangalore called Tata ELXSI. This is because Indian traffic and road conditions are not as orderly as the ones in developed countries. An autonomous car that works in Indian conditions will have to be ready for a lot of unexpected surprises. For example, in India lane markings are absent on many roads. A standardized road design is also absent in most parts of the country.
The government in India is opposed to driverless/autonomous cars as it fears that jobs will be taken away by such vehicles. Many technology experts like Google’s Sundar Pichai and Uber’s Travis Kalanick feel that driverless cars cannot be developed for India due to the unpredictable road and traffic conditions. Other experts feel that driverless cars will actually make Indian roads safer. Only the future will tell us how autonomous cars evolve in an Indian context.