- Causes that have motivated engineers to create autonomous vehicles
- Technological and legislative barriers in India
- Inter-relationship between the growth of electric/hybrid vehicle and self-driven cars
- How India needs to develop electric vehicles
- Methods which can pave way to the introduction of robotic cars
Despite the fact that India has some barricades in introducing self-driven cars, some of the following measures can be adopted, which can put India on the map of countries leading in this technology.
A. Focus on Electric Vehicles
It is interesting to note that countries which have made a focus shift towards greener energy by using electric and hybrid vehicles, such as US, China and UK are flourishing in research and development of autonomous vehicles. So, it is of paramount importance for India, to develop infrastructure, which can produce more electric vehicles.
This shift in focus is also essential to decrease India’s dependence on fossil fuels for vehicle operation. It is of some solace that the Government of India has understood the importance of moving to greener fuel, which is evident from its establishment of National Electric Mobility Mission plan. The Indian government has also introduced subsidies under an initiative called FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacture of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles in India). Many more charging stations can be created across India, (at least in big cities such as Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata) which can serve an impetus to the growth of electric vehicles technology.
B. Creating awareness about autonomous vehicles
The role of consumers in adoption of such a massive technology is not to be undermined. The technocrats can develop technologies, government can facilitate research, but the success of a technology is only when it reaches the consumers. The figure 10 explains the inter-relationship between industries, government and the consumers.
The consumers should realize the potential benefits of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles can reduce accidents by bringing down driver participation in driving. This technology can potentially make road accidents a thing of past in the days to come. It is the duty of the government to create awareness among the Indian car buyers about the need to shift towards greener fuel methods and create a modern outlook among Indian buyers.
Rigorous marketing has to be undertaken and persuade the Indian customers to think beyond fuel economy of a car. The delay in adoption of technology, as mentioned in the above section is partly due to reluctance of Indian customers to move towards latest technology, due to poor awareness of what the technology promises to offer.
C. Making Sophisticated Features Affordable
In order to make Indian cars technologically competitive with American and the European cars, the Indian car manufacturers have to take initiatives in introducing state-of-art technologies for Indian buyers. It is time that indigenous car manufacturers such as Maruti Udyog Ltd.,
start adopting latest technology such as adaptive cruise control and line departure warning systems. This is because even if the autonomous cars are introduced on Indian roads, they have to communicate effectively with older versions of cars. Thus, keeping the future of automobile industry, and having a vision as to how Indian roads will be dominated by autonomous cars in days to come, the present day manufacturers will have to introduce technology for consumers to familiarise with.
It is also important, that the Indian two wheeler manufacturers such as Hero Motorcorp Ltd, and Bajaj should start research on robotic vehicles and have a clear vision on the condition of two wheelers if the roads are going to be dominated by self driven cars. Thus, the growth of research and development in self driven two wheelers is very important for seamless transition from manual to self driven automobiles.
The cost of an automobile is the biggest impediment to introduce certain features into it. In India, the variation in prices between base versions and ones fitted with ABS (on small cars) is about INR 50,000 and if airbags are added to it, the difference can inflate to about INR 150000 . As small cars still remain the ones which sell most, measures have to be taken to implement advanced safety and driver information systems at affordable prices on base versions as well. Toyota has become the first manufacturer to fit ABS in all models in India .
The market should offer a range of options for Indian buyers. As a matter of fact, in India, there are only six electric or hybrid car variants in the four wheeler segment. This includes the Mahindra e20, Mahindra e-Verito, Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, BMW i8 and Mahindra Scorpio Micro-Hybrid. . Out of these only three cars are from the mid size range and the rest fall the under the premium segment. Similarly there are a handfull of options in electric scooters and three wheelers. But these numbers are far too less when compared to the range of options an American buyer or a British car buyer has. This shows the need for automakers to introduce latest technologies in mid range cars of India in order to fascilitate the future growth of autonomous vehicles.
It is also important for car manufacturers in India to collaborate with leading companies who offer Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) to develop futuristic vehicle navigation system which will assist in making robotic cars. This is achievable in India, since it has an extensive infrastructure for software development. India has recently launched NAVIC which is the operational name for IRNSS
(Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) . This is said to be the toughest counterpart of America’s GPS satellites. Thus, the current state is extremely conducive for Indian car manufacturers to use satellites for vehicle navigation system, and NAVIC can help makes this technology affordable.
Creation of suitable infrastructure is of vital importance to adopt any new technology. This statement holds true even in the case of making autonomous vehicles a reality in India. But the primary step is to optimise the existing infrastructure, which can fascilitate creation of new ones.
The government should ensure that footpaths are created based on the guidelines for pedestrian fascilities released by Indian Road Congress (1988)  and supervise the standards of the same. Some cities in India have developed the concepts
such as dedicated bus bays and lane for the cyclists.
The NMT (Non Motorised Transport) Infrastructure along the Delhi BMT corridor , Punes’s NMT corridor along BRTS , Model roads of Ahmedabad  stand as some of the shining stars and stand as models where road space is optimised. These steps are essential for introduction of autonomous vehicle, as this can homogenise the system and can streamline the overall traffic flow. It will be great, if other Indian cities too can follow such systems and take some measures which can change the landscape of Indian roads. The Figure 11 shows a bus bay in Ahmedabad .
The civic bodies should create many more multi-level parking infrastructures. Delhi introduced India’s first multi level parking , with a capacity to hold 824 vehicles . The dream of autonomous cars demands many more such infrastructure developments .
E. Stringent Laws and their enforcement
Lack of stringent laws and ineffective enforcement of existing ones need to be eliminated to make self driving cars popular in India. The Broken Window theory, introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, states that, monitoring and preventing small crimes will create orderliness in urban areas, and thereby bigger crimes can be prevented. Many offences such as parking violations and lane jumping are not penalised with any severity in India, and this is a situation where the aforesaid theory has to be implemented. Such minor offences should be severely penalised, and thereby create an orderliness on the Indian roads, which will be a great step towards welcoming self driven cars.
The Indian lawmakers should follow the models of American and British motor vehicles guidelines. ABS has been mandatory on all cars sold in EU since 2004. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made it mandatory for all cars to be fitted with ABS ESC from September 2013 .It is interesting to note that many state governments in India are framing stringent laws to make it mandatory to wear the seat belts and helmets. The Indian government has made ABS, airbags and speed-warning system mandatory on all cars from October 2018  and ABS mandatory for two wheelers from April 2019. . Though India is a lot late in adopting such stringent rules, the fact that Indian government is becoming technology and safety conscious, is a good sign for the Indian automotive buyers.
The report has dealt on the causes that have motivated the engineers to create autonomous vehicles, technological and legislative barriers in India, the inter-relationship between the growth of electric/hybrid vehicle and self-driven cars, how India needs to develop electric vehicles and has suggested some methods which can pave way to the introduction of robotic cars.
The report arrives at the following conclusions. The world needs carry out more research on making two wheelers autonomous for countries like India. The government has to rely more on re-generative energy solutions such as solar power, in which India has enormous potential and thus producing more hybrid/electric vehicles. Create more orderliness on Indian roads by better driver orientation programs. The government has setup futuristic programs such as the NEMMP and PACE, and should focus more on their success. Stricter should be adopted and the Broken Window Theory should be followed. The institutions should focus on optimizing existing infrastructure and developing new ones such as high speed corridors and multi-level parking complexes.
The Indian car manufacturers should start joint ventures with companies such as Google, Volvo, and Tesla etc., who are the front runners in self-driving cars. In addition to this Indian car manufacturers should develop a road map as to how autonomous car technology can be introduced in India. The outreach of vehicle navigation system should be improved and innovative technologies such as adaptive cruise control should be introduced on all Indian cars.
Upon the analysis of current growth rate the following attempt is made to predict as to when various levels of automation will be possible on Indian cars. The report predicts that by 2025, all the cars in India will be fitted with NAVIC (or GPS) and will have adaptive cruise control and reverse parking sensors. By 2030, India will have about one million electric cars. However, it will be in early 2040s that Indian roads will be fit for the introduction of autonomous cars. Thus around 2040-45 autonomous vehicles may be commercially available in India.
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