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Opinion: How India can move from Level 2 to Level 3 autonomy of cars and beyond

New Delhi: In recent years, the Indian automobile industry has witnessed significant developments in driving technologies. With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), cars are becoming smarter and more capable of performing complex tasks without human intervention.

One of the most notable developments is the spread of self-driving technologies, as cars are equipped with sensors, cameras, and advanced technologies such as ADAS to sense their surroundings and make smart decisions. Additionally, advances in connectivity have transformed cars into mobile hubs, allowing for seamless integration with smartphones, navigation systems, and other smart devices.

According to a report by Allied Market Research, the global autonomous vehicle market was valued at USD 76.13 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 2.161 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 40.1% from 2021 to 2030, creating a global transformation in transportation. While these numbers highlight the enormous potential and market demand for autonomous driving technologies, we still have a long way to go before fully autonomous vehicle driving is achieved.

Let's dive into the current level of automobiles in India and how we can raise our game to keep up with the global players:

Indian Automotive Industry

Level of autonomy in India compared to other countries

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has classified autonomous driving into six levels, ranging from level 0 to 5. The SAE classification provides a clear framework for understanding the different levels of automation in cars. Level 0 represents vehicles without self-driving features, while Level 1 includes basic driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control. The second level offers partial automation, allowing the car to control steering and acceleration simultaneously under certain conditions, with the driver responsible for monitoring. Level 3 represents conditional automation, where the vehicle can manage most aspects of driving but may require human intervention in certain situations. Levels 4 and 5 indicate high automation and full automation, respectively, where the vehicle can perform all driving tasks without any human intervention.

As of now, India operates mostly with Level 1 and Level 2 automation. Many vehicles in the Indian market offer features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking. However, these systems require constant attention and intervention from the driver, which limits the vehicle's autonomy.

Compared to countries like the US, Germany, and Japan, India still lags in terms of autonomous driving capabilities. These countries have made significant progress in developing and implementing automation technologies at level 3 and above. For example, companies like Tesla, BMW, and Toyota have introduced semi-autonomous features that allow their vehicles to perform complex maneuvers without constant driver intervention.

Going from level 2 to 3

To move from Level 2 to Level 3 cars, India needs to adopt advanced technologies like sensor fusion, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and enhanced connectivity. Sensor fusion combines data from multiple sensors such as radar and LiDAR to create a complete view of the vehicle's surroundings. Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms can analyze this data and make decisions in real-time, improving the vehicle's ability to navigate complex environments. Additionally, improving connectivity through V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication can allow cars to exchange information with other vehicles, infrastructure, and pedestrians, improving safety and efficiency.

The role of semiconductors

Semiconductors play a critical role in enabling advanced automotive technologies. They power electronic systems that control autonomous functions, process sensor data, and manage artificial intelligence algorithms. Currently, Level 2 vehicles have advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that require semiconductors for functions such as adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

However, moving to the third level of autonomous driving, where the vehicle can perform most driving tasks autonomously, it requires more advanced semiconductors for real-time decision-making, sensor fusion, and complex algorithms.

The semiconductors work by Linking LiDAR, radar, and camera systems, allowing vehicles to accurately perceive their surroundings and make informed decisions. As India strives to adopt higher levels of autonomous technology, the development and adoption of specialized automotive semiconductors will be essential to ensure the reliability, efficiency, and safety of autonomous vehicles.

Challenges

Many challenges must be addressed for the transition to be successful. First, infrastructure development is crucial, including the installation of robust communications networks and intelligent traffic management systems. Second, high-speed networks and wireless connectivity, such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, play a crucial role in self-driving vehicles.

Multi-Gigabit Ethernet technology with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) ensures Quality of Service (QoS) and enables seamless data sharing across the vehicle, which are some aspects of the technology that are not yet widespread in India.

Additionally, ensuring data privacy and cybersecurity will be crucial, as autonomous vehicles rely on large-scale data sharing. In addition, public acceptance and confidence in autonomous vehicles must be encouraged through awareness campaigns and stringent safety regulations.

The Way Ahead

The Indian government has realized the potential of autonomous driving and has taken several initiatives to promote its development. The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and the National Motor Vehicle Policy, which aims to create an enabling environment for automotive research, development, and manufacturing, are among the few initiatives to accelerate the transformation. The government should continue to provide political support and incentives for research and development in autonomous driving technologies. Collaboration between academia, industry, and research institutions will be essential to foster innovation and knowledge sharing.

In conclusion, while India is currently operating at the second level of automation, moving to the third level and beyond requires significant technological advances. Moreover, with the right government policies, industry collaboration, and public support, India can successfully move towards greater levels of autonomy in the automotive sector, transforming the way we travel and improving safety and efficiency on roads.

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