New Delhi: The Indian consumers have big appetite for technology. The swift growth of the domestic smartphone market, and the consumption level of internet technology are its indicators. The same appetite seems to be driving the domestic automotive industry to the connected vehicle technology and making it a key product differentiator. In the passenger vehiclesegment it is even becoming an essential part.
In its scope of influence inside and outside a vehicle, connected technology could be one of the most prominent among all the megatrends. “In the next 10 years, I will certainly say so. Integrated digital cockpits offer enormous personalisation for consumer. Rear seat entertainment and interaction of the vehicle/user with the outside world (V2X, OTA etc) will open significant opportunities in this space,” Kishor Patil, co-founder, MD & CEO, KPIT Technologies, a major technology partner to automotive companies, said. About 7,000 engineers in the company are working on new technologies for the automotive industry.
Car market leader Maruti Suzuki sees better prospects for the connected vehicle technology in India. “Definitely, connected is going to come. The way vehicles are going to get connected shared mobility, is going to grow,” C V Raman, CTO and senior ED — engineering, Maruti Suzuki, said. However, he suggests that there should be a well thought out roadmap for the rollout of ADAS in the domestic market as he thinks some of these technologies need to be proven on Indian roads.
“That’s something very important,” he said while highlighting the importance of the right value proposition that the industry should provide to consumers. “ADAS should reduce road accidents and fatalities. Is there a correlation for that? And that’s where we need to have more discussions among the auto OEMs, the component sector and the government test agencies,” Raman said.
Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), which has introduced ADAS for the first time in its XUV 700, is quite bullish on the technology’s prospects in India. Better road networks with lane markings, government push to make safety features such as FCW (Forward Collision Warning), AEB (Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB), LKA (Lane Keep Assist) mandatory, at least in the commercial vehicle segment, increasing technology appetite among young consumers, improvement in ADAS technology with every generation are factors that M&M is betting on to drive ADAS adoption in India.
However, it also feels there should be enough awareness among consumers about the role of ADAS features. R Velusamy, global head of product planning at M&M’s automotive division, said, “It is important that OEMs make a conscious and a focused attempt to make customers aware of the limitations of the technology. It is important that customers understand that ADAS systems available in XUV700 or any other vehicle in the Indian market are only assist systems and not autonomous driving.”
The XUV 700’s variants offering ADAS features have Level 1.5 of autonomous driving capabilities. Its ADAS feature pack offers assist solutions in two broad segments. Features like FCW, AEB, LDW (Lane Departure Warning) and LKA, HBA (High Beam Assist) and TSR (Traffic Sign Recognition), and features including SMart Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control which adds to driving convenience. ADAS offers a host of features which can help the vehicle’s safety quotient and driving convenience. Ashim Sharma, Partner and Group Head, Business Performance Improvement Consulting (Auto, Engg. & Logistics) at Nomura Research Institute, sees good prospects for ADAS in India’s volume segment as they can be used by brands as a differentiator. However, he feels that the AEB part needs some more validation in India, given the country’s traffic conditions and driving habits.
As the ADAS technologies gain ground with well thought-out rollout plans, the critical scale of vehicles with a fair amount of autonomous features and driving capabilities may not be too far away in the global industry. “I would say 5 years or so. Legislation has to evolve. Technology is ready, but the other things have to catch up,” Mandar Kulkarni, senior partner and global leader — auto and manufacturing and healthcare life sciences, Apexon, said.
While ADAS or autonomous driving technologies are helping certain OEMs differentiate their products in the highly competitive Indian market, these are being looked at by the commercial vehicle industry to enhance their products’ uptime and return on investment. Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, maker of Bharat Benz range of trucks and buses, has started offering a factory-fitted driver behaviour and alertness monitoring system.
Anuj Kapuria, founder and CEO of Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz, which supplies the technology, said that detecting the root cause of many accidents, driver distraction or lack of alertness, can help prevent them.
Ashok Leyland, the country’s second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, plans to offer L1 autonomous driving technologies in a tipper first in 4-5 years. N Saravanan, CTO, Ashok Leyland, said at the ETAuto Connected Vehicle Summit held on Friday that the OEM would offer it as an option first. Raman, Velusamy, and Kapuria were also speakers at the ETAuto Connected Vehicle Summit.
ADAS technologies can be cutting edge and enhance a vehicle’s value proposition significantly. However when it comes to India, the plug-and-play approach may not work for all ADAS packages. M&M discovered it in the development and testing phases of the XUV 700. The vehicle with the ADAS package couldn’t recognise other road occupants like a hay- carrying trailer of a farm tractor or a two-wheeler well enough and respond accordingly. The engineering team spent 14,000 hours across various parts of the country to make all features Indian driving conditions-friendly. With the hurdles ironed out on time, the XUV 700 is now the first India made model from an Indian OEM to offer AEB as an option.
Majority of the XUV 700’s bookings is for the variant offering ADAS, according to Velusamy. “In India, Level 2 autonomy will be widespread in the next two to four years. We have already introduced features such as the smartpilot assist in XUV700 and we anticipate such features to be seen with all the major mass market players at least in their flagship offering in the near future,” he said. WIth this outlook, M&M’s R&D and engineering teams would be “vigorously working” on pushing the ADAS technology envelope further.
The recently-launched MG Astor also pitches autonomous technology as a differentiator. It offers L2 autonomous technology as an option.
As the ADAS trend grows, there may also be regulations to ensure a proper roadmap for the technology rollout in India. Raman feels that as the urban usage of passenger vehicles is higher than highway usage, “a lot of study needs to be done” before the mass scale adoption of ADAs technology. “We should always ensure that the interventions we make are commensurate with the results. And the result should be safer mobility. It is too early to gauge the results, but in a market with a shorter motoring history than the matured markets of the West, OEMs and technology partners have to do all that’s required to ensure the technologies yield good results,” Raman said.
As the automotive industry advances in the disruptive age, Patil of KPIT Technologies sees more alliances with other companies, including global majors like BMW and ZF. “OEMs are working on developing software in-house but are also partnering with software companies. Vehicles with L2 and L3 features have already started to become key selling propositions in some vehicles. Consumer adoption and their willingness to pay a price for these will be key factors in their early adoption for medium to high-end vehicles,” he said.
Patil expects L2, L3 features to be common in vehicles in India during the second half of this decade.