It is estimated that by the year 2030, self-driving cars will constitute 25% of all the cars plying on global roads. Driverless cars use advanced technology and sensors to help navigate the road safely. The numerous video cameras and sensors in these cars enable them to read road signs and detect the edges of the roads, traffic signals, and the presence of other vehicles. All of this data is processed in a central control system, which then controls the steering and movement of the vehicle at a safe distance from other vehicles.
Currently, there is a lot of R&D work underway across the globe. Companies like Google, Tesla, Mercedes, Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and so on are leading the efforts by leveraging the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics engineering. In India, too, there are many startups that are experimenting with self-driving technology.
Challenges that India must overcome for self-driving cars to come into the country
The adoption of self-driving cars in India is still a distant dream. Some of the reasons include:
- The government of India has taken a clear stand against the introduction of driverless cars in India citing job loss as the primary reason. The government’s argument is that there are 40 lakh drivers in the country with a shortfall of 25 lakh drivers. The government does not want to put employment opportunities for skilled drivers at stake and cites that jobs of around a crore people may be at stake due to the introduction of this technology. Further, the government believes that the infrastructure required—complete with organized driving conditions—for such a technology is still not available in the country.
- The roads in India are not conducive for self-driving cars when compared with their western counterparts. Cities like Delhi and Mumbai have roads that overflow with vehicular traffic at any given time of the day. Further, drivers in India do not follow the traffic rules. They jump the signals and do not drive in designated lanes. This reckless driving behaviour is something that a driverless car is not trained to preempt!
- There are challenges around the economic feasibility of launching driverless cars in India as companies are sceptical of enormous R&D costs as well as the market viability.
- To make matters worse, India ranked 24th out of the 25 countries where KPMG gauged the preparedness for self-driving vehicles through its Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index 2019.
The world is taking big strides
The Netherlands topped the results of KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index 2019 and is launching platoons of more than a 100 autonomous trucks on major routes. China is well on its way to commercialize its autonomous vehicles by 2025. Singapore, Norway, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and the US have already given a go-ahead for use of autonomous vehicles. Apart from The Netherlands, the UK, France, and Australia are preparing to introduce laws to encourage the use of autonomous vehicles.
India must not ignore the benefits
Despite all the challenges, India cannot look the other way when it comes to adoption of autonomous vehicles. For one, they afford people to utilize their commute time more productively instead of losing it on just driving. They can minimize the human errors that are the prime cause of road accidents and can help save precious lives. Driverless cars also make for an excellent mobility option for people with physical disabilities that prevents them from driving on their own. While autonomous cars may take more time to become a reality on the Indian roads, the beginning for autonomous vehicles has been made in the form of self-driving tractors and trucks. Companies like Escorts, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Flux Auto are ready to introduce them soon.
The article has been written by Neetu Katyal, Content and Marketing Consultant
She can be reached on LinkedIn.