Are Indian automobile majors working on a confidential project to develop driverless vehicles for the Indian market? As per a report in the Economic Times, three IITs are at the heart of this project to develop "autonomous vehicle solutions". The three IITs involved in the project are IIT Kharagpur, Kanpur and Bombay.
The financial daily quotes, IIT Kharagpur's Debashish Chakravartym head of the autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) project: We are developing technology for driverless cars keeping the Indian market in mind, in contrast to the global tech majors who are building and testing technologies in the Western market.
Globally, the automobile industry has seen giant strides being made in development of electric and hybrid cars which are now available commercially. Toyota Prius and Tesla's Model X are among the more famous names when it comes to hybrids or electric cars available in the market. The next phase of automotive evolution seems to be progressing towards development of driverless vehicles. Both Google and Uber have been at the forefront of this development.
This report shows that Indian companies and engineering institutes are also aware of the challenges that may lie ahead and are trying to keep up with the rest of the world by developing these vehicles using our own resources. Even though the IITs involved in the projects, did not disclose to the paper the names of the companies involved due to confidentiality agreements, they did confirm that all major players were working with the three institutues.
While IIT Kharagpur has students developing these vehicles from scratch, IIT Kanpur has Gaurav Pandey as faculty. Pandey quit his job in the autonomous vehicle research group at the US-based Ford Motor Company before joining IIT Kanpur.
At IIT Bombay, a team of students led by Ankit Sharma is developing driverless technology. The paper quotes Sharma saying, "If we can have a solution that can work in India, it will undoubtedly work anywhere in the world. This car is built from scratch at the institute with only sensors being outsourced. The algorithm or the brain of the car is being developed by us".
IIT Bombay and Kharagpur are testing their technology on Mahindra's E2O electric cars as part of Mahindra RISE Prize Driverless Car Challenge. Other than Mahindra, Continental is also helping the students develop this technology with its sponsorship support.
If all goes as per plan, then India might see indigenously developed driverless vehicle, much like our space programme.