Opportunities for electric cars and challenges for driverless cars in India

  Sep 14, 2017 6:15:39 AM

With a constant alteration in technology, our needs are varying more and more every day. Gone are the days where we would depend only on public transport for travelling. The current generation entails more of electronic gadgets for a tranquil life. Electric Vehicles are hypothetically substantial sources of new electric loads that a country like India is focusing on in the near future. In fact, just this morning we woke up to the news that the government has amended building bylaws in Karnataka to make it mandatory to have charging points in all high-rise buildings, including malls and apartments

India may be slow in embracing electric vehicles, but once it takes off, the adoption will be fast. The nation is estimated to see 30.81 million electric vehicles sales by 2040. That number comes from Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog. According to sources, the electric vehicles trend is set to grow in the country and India aims to reach zero emission by 2040. Electric cars will not only modify the Indian mind-set towards technology but also magnify the horizons for advanced technology throughout the country. The State-owned Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) has invited global bids for 10,000 electric sedans that will run up to 150 km on a single charge, for use by government departments, taking a big step to achieve power minister Piyush Goyal’s dream of having only electric cars on Indian streets by 2030. India sold only 25,000 units of electric vehicles in FY17, a good jump from 16,000 electric vehicles sold two years ago. Currently, India has only 206 community charging stations across the country.

Meanwhile, with the upcoming advancement in electric vehicle technology, it is vital to recognise that for India to be technologically advanced, no matter how incredible an innovation might be, it’s useless if it is not affordable. Therefore, for an automotive like driverless car to function in a nation like India would be quite a challenging task. Furthermore, India has the second largest inhabitants in the world wherein a lot of individuals get job opportunities from transportation firms like Uber and Ola. When former Uber chief Travis Kalanick visited India in 2016, he said India would be the last place on earth to get self-driving cars. Union Minister for Roads and Transport, Nitin Gadkari said the government would rather protect the jobs of millions of drivers than see a technological marvel on the streets. Furthermore, he mentioned that driverless technology would render millions of Indian drivers jobless.

It is not difficult for Indian auto companies to develop driverless cars. But the issue is the roads, not cars. No technology can navigate the numerous challenges a driver faces on chaotic Indian roads even in big cities. From cows, camels and elephants to auto-rickshaws, rickshaws, hard-carts, trucks and cycles, the traffic on Indian roads is more diverse than anywhere in the developed world.

Even if driverless cars become inexpensive, no one will buy them if they don't understand them. That means that self-driving car companies will need to educate consumers on the advantages of autonomous vehicles. Indians don’t like change. Hence, they need to be persuaded in a manner that will make them want to try out something diverse since they always think twice before going for something new in the market.

Author: Vinod Vasudevan, Senior Architect, Automotive Portfolio, Product Engineering Services

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