Self-driving cars will not be allowed in India. This statement was given by the Road Transport & Highways Minister, Nitin Gadkari.
India in the recent past has had its own set of apprehensions when it comes to autonomous cars. With different stakeholders in line, the battle for self-driving cars is long. The government is looking at the loss of jobs. The companies are looking at huge R&D costs and market viability. Whereas, the consumers are simply not interested.
In one of the largest car markets of the world, experimenting doesn’t seem feasible. The government has clearly stated in the past – anything which might hamper jobs won’t be promoted by the government.
So where do we exactly stand on autonomous cars? While the world awaits making them commercial, is India going to adopt the technology? Or do we have to wait for a decade or two?
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Self Driving Cars and India: An Unfinished Tale
India has seemed a bit sceptical when it comes to adopting autonomous vehicle technology as of now. The Road Transport and Highway Minister have reiterated his stance on the topic quite a few times now. According to Nitin Gadkari, the country has 40 lakh drivers and the country is short on 25 lakh drivers as of now. Self-driving cars might put at stake the jobs of more than a crore people.
To some extent, there’s a point. Any decision which tends to impact employment in such a large country might have grave consequences. According to a report by HR solutions firm, PeopleStrong, India might account for 23 % of global jobs that will be lost due to automation.
Challenges for Self Driving Cars in India
India ranks 1st in the number of road accident-related deaths around the world according to the World Road Statistics Report of 2018. Road accidents claimed more than 1.5 lakh accident-related deaths in the country in 2018.
Now, in a country where traffic signs are merely a shiny blue or green board, can autonomous cars ensure safety? The entire technology behind self-driving cars is based on the AI identifying the surroundings to operate. It isn’t competent enough to predict a reckless driver changing lanes with blaring out loud music. You get the point, don’t you?
But this can’t become the reason to not prepare ourselves for the future.
India vs The World: The Race to Automation
According to KPMG’s 2019 Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index, India ranks 24th out of 25 countries in the list. The list stated the readiness of the countries in adopting autonomous vehicle practices. The list was topped by the Netherlands.
Countries like Germany, USA, UK, Japan and China are running test-runs at the moment on the cars. China is on track to commercialise autonomous vehicles by the year 2025. According to a recent survey by Beijing Innovation Centre for Mobility Intelligence, 77 AVs were tested for more than 1 million kilometres in the country.
The Netherlands has been adamant on bringing the technology to the forefront. It plans to launch a platoon of more than 100 driverless trucks on specific roads. In January 2018, Norway legalised testing autonomous cars on public roads, while Sweden is working on electric-charging roads, public transport and whatnot. Meanwhile, Singapore has come up with Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles. The Centre has an objective to increase research on AVs.
A report by a marketing firm ABI, predicts 8 million self-driving cars plying on US roads by 2025.
A Ray of Hope: Autonomous Vehicles and India
While things might seem a bit grey, there’s a ray of hope. Although we might not get an autonomous car, self-driving tractors are surely on the way.
Tractor maker Escorts is on its way to developing a Level-2 autonomous tractor. The tractor will have the ability to auto-steer and use geofencing through GPS. The tractor’s prototype was showcased in September 2019. Mahindra & Mahindra is also coming up with something on similar lines. The world’s largest tractor manufacturer is positive on taking farm automation onto a whole another level.
Flux Auto, a Bangalore-based company is developing an autonomous truck that will have the ability to ply on Indian highways. However, the driver would still be needed in case things might go wrong. The company has conducted a 10-kilometre long test and evaluated the truck on certain parameters. In Mumbai, FishEyeBox claims it is building a Level 4 autonomous car which brings it at par with global auto giants.
Will it or Will it Not?
As seen in the past, technology waits for no one. No matter how stringent the controls are, what the situation is, you need to adapt. People used to be sceptical about electric vehicles but here we are today, embracing them.
Instead of waiting for the technological changes to haunt us, we’ve got to adapt. The job loss situation makes even more sense in current times and in a post-pandemic world. There are going to be job losses for sure, but that shouldn’t stop us from adopting the technology.
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