Tata Elxsi, a part of Tata Group that takes care of the technological fields like automotive, aerospace, broadcast and consumer electronics, will soon test an autonomous car for the first time on the Indian soil. While the autonomous cars are fast becoming reality in the western countries, there is no wind about the driverless cars in India. Given the traffic situation of India, none of the car makers have ever tried their self-driving machines in the country. Why, the CEO of Google who recently came to India, has even said that the driverless cars don’t stand a chance in the Indian traffic.
Even though there have been previous attempts by the individuals to make and carry out tests in India, Tata Elxsi will become the first company to perform such tests. The highly advanced driverless vehicles will be tested for the first time in the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru.
Tata will be one of the few companies that will try their hands on the driverless car along with majors like Google, Apple, Uber, Ford and Tesla, who are already deep into the development of the driverless cars in the western countries.
Tata has already started simulating and testing the autonomous cars at a facility situated on the outskirts of Bengaluru. The company is not building the cars from scratch. Instead, they have heavily re-engineered two sedans, out of which is a Zest, to perform the autonomous tasks.
The autonomous cars get high-tech equipment like Lidar radars, a stereoscopic camera and ultrasonic sensors to capture the surroundings. The equipment then sends the data to an onboard computer that studies the data and gives input to the steering, accelerator and the brakes.
Tata’s self-driving car program will be much unique compared to the others as the company will also provide a platform to other OEMs and suppliers to test their equipment. It will result in a faster development for the cars, unlike the foreign companies, who keep the development process strictly under their umbrella.
Tata is currently seeking permission from the local authorities to test the car on the public roads. The company has not provided a timeframe yet, but we should see the autonomous cars roaming around the Bengaluru city soon enough.
The Indian challenge
The traffic situation in India is chaotic. Even the metropolitan cities of the country do not see people following lane-rules. Not to our surprise, many international personalities working closely with the technology said that the Indian roads are not yet ready for the future technology. Here are few quotes from the top honchos.
Steffen Berns, President and Managing Director, Bosch India said
We are working on this because we are part of the global network. The question is when is this going to come in India? On the autonomous, probably slightly later than the other countries because the traffic situation is a bit different here.
Dr Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra and Mahindra said
The answer to this question will be my guess because currently we are far from seeing autonomous technology (in vehicles) as a reality in India.
Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
I don’t think for a country like India you are gonna see completely automated cars.
Travis Kalanick, CEO, Uber
India will be the last one to get autonomous cars! Have you see the way people drive here?
Interestingly, Tata and its subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover joined the UK government’s AutoDrive project, where the companies are working together with Ford to develop autonomous cars for the UK market. Tata Tiago has already been turned into a driverless car in the UK and is being tested with other vehicles. The AutoDrive Project website also lists the Hexa project vehicle. Tata Elxsi will take knowledge from the ongoing project to accelerate the Indian plans, but there has no word on the same yet.