Nurturing Autonomous Driving Technology Transfer and Adoption in India

In conversation with Charulatha, Correspondent, Siliconindia Magazine. Prashanth discusses the measures Indian automotive firms are adopting to facilitate the exchange of technology and know-how from international partners to domestic teams. Additionally, he explores how these companies cultivate regional technical skills and proficiency.

Impact of Autonomous Driving Regulations and Hurdles in India's Context
Vehicles have evolved beyond mere transportation modes, becoming mobile living spaces marked by increased time spent due to traffic and leisure drives. Today's automobiles resemble computerized IoT devices, meeting demands for comfort and safety akin to homes. This shift has led to the rise of autonomous mobility aspirations, particularly in emerging markets like India. The automotive industry strives to integrate advanced tech for assisted functions to enhance safety.

Continental has been at the forefront of influencing trends and quickly embracing new advancements across various markets. The Indian government has mandated safety measures such as ABS and six airbags, reflecting a crucial step in improving road safety.  The Indian government has also funded research and development projects to improve the safety and reliability of autonomous vehicles. The government has established research centers, such as the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC) and the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), to support the development of autonomous mobility technologies. Intelligent technologies such as ADAS, Automated Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind-Spot Detection, Intelligent Intersection, Right-Turn Assist, and much more, that are making driving safer would comply with regulations by NCAP globally and be customized to regional NCAPs.

Although, these technologies are being incorporated and adapted in the country, but India has its own set of challenges, especially for entry-level and mid-segment cars. Currently, the automotive industry is focusing on adapting assisted driving systems that will aid the driver with driving functions. As India is an emerging market with unique demands, our primary focus lies in addressing the immediate challenges.

Continental has been at the forefront of influencing trends and quickly embracing new advancements across various markets

The infrastructure and network requirements are yet to improve to the extent of being able to support the vast number of vehicles that could be on the road. Therefore, transformation of the road and transport infrastructure is required for an easy adoption of autonomous vehicles in the Indian market in future. Keeping the current scenario in mind, safety is of utmost importance. Globally, over 1.4 million fatalities annually underscore the urgency for technologies like electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, and tire pressure monitoring. Continental is focusing on customizing these smart technologies according to regional norms, making them cost-effective, and driving growth by adapting technological advancements to meet customer requirements.

The increasing desire for technology-integrated automobiles has specifically generated interest in sophisticated systems like ERAS. Continental is committed to delivering affordable and intelligent safety technologies to ensure Vision Zero - A future with zero fatalities, zero injuries, and zero crashes and advanced technologies like ADAS will add great value in achieving this vision. With the incorporation of ADAS in entry level and mid-segment vehicles along with gradual development of transport infrastructure, Autonomous Vehicles can become a reality in India.

Fostering Understanding and Expertise in Autonomous Driving Technologies across India
Autonomous Driving Technologies are still not prevalent in India. At present, we have ADAS technologies that have entered the India market. Earlier such sophisticated technologies were restricted to premium vehicles but gradually, it is making its way in mid-premium segment. By localizing Research and Development and manufacturing, these technologies will trickle down to entry-level cars. Once the automotive market reaches its maturity, autonomous driving technologies will become a reality soon but till then assisted driving features like Automated Valet Parking, Automated Parking Fusion Systems, etc. will help in improving the overall safety scenario of the country.

Transformative Potential of Autonomous Driving in India: Catalyzing Efficiency, Safety, and Infrastructure Development
Autonomous mobility can be categorized into assisted, automated, and autonomous modes. While full automation might be a distant goal for India due to factors like infrastructure, driver behavior, and road conditions needing improvement, assisted driving functions hold immense promise. Automotive manufacturers globally are working on these technologies. India's progress in this area is evolving, but as cars become more connected, people expect innovative tech for automation, particularly in safety and convenience features.

"The localization of technologies in India's automotive industry has a multifaceted impact on ancillary sectors, fostering innovation, creating jobs, and boosting competitiveness"

Notably, road infrastructure is pivotal for these advancements. In India, road accidents claim around 150,000 lives and leave over 350,000 injured yearly. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) can be a boon, automating actions, reducing system errors, and enhancing vehicle safety. An instance is emergency brake assist, which intervenes if a driver's response is delayed, preventing collisions. These technologies aid in averting accidents, offering warnings, and assuming temporary control if needed. Ultimately, ADAS technologies can potentially save lives and enhance road safety, making roads safer for all.

Automotive Firms in India Foster Global-Local Tech Transfer and Build Indigenous Expertise
India has emerged as a favored hub for R&D, drawing substantial foreign direct investments. Major companies have established R&D centers here, leveraging the nation's advantageous policies, strategic location, skilled STEM workforce, youth population, and thriving startup culture. India ranks third globally in startups, underscored by a progressive mindset. This environment proves conducive for tech firms to cultivate engineering teams, even for intricate fields like autonomous mobility. A prominent case is the Continental tech center, housing over 5,000 engineers. Its growth encompasses critical global responsibilities, showcasing India's adeptness. Niche skills are abundant, fostered by a supportive setting, while internal initiatives bolster expertise. Local centers foster innovation, contributing patents independently of headquarters. Skilling is prioritized through innovative programs such as Continental Software Academy and Innos University. These initiatives facilitate lifelong learning, enabling talent to adapt to evolving automotive trends like cyber security, cloud computing, and AI.

Localization's Role in Fueling Growth of Indian Automotive Tech Sector
The localization of technologies in India's automotive industry has a multifaceted impact on ancillary sectors, fostering innovation, creating jobs, and boosting competitiveness. The government's push for self-reliance has turned India into a burgeoning automotive hub, attracting global companies. They adapt technologies to suit the market's needs, investing in localizing the value chain. This not only generates employment but also ensures affordability for the value-driven Indian market. Continental follows ‘in the market, for the market’ approach as localization lies at the core of the company’s strategy in India, creating an end-to-end value creation starting from marketing, R&D to production and sales. As India is a price-sensitive market with specific requirements, it is important for the automotive manufacturers to provide the latest technologies at affordable rates. Therefore, it is important to innovate and produce technologies driven by local market requirements with a local R&D setup. Localization emerges as a key strategy to align products with market demands, echoing the message of self-sufficiency and growth.

Strategies for Advancing Technology Localization and Cost Competitiveness in the Indian Automotive Industry
Striving for technological localization in the industry is a daily endeavor. Companies must invest wisely in countries like India, a burgeoning automotive hub projected to become the third largest. With a substantial English-speaking population and a vast STEM talent pool producing 2.5 million graduates annually, India is an appealing destination for multinationals to establish offices and R&D centers. Localizing the entire value chain, from conceptualization to post-sales services, enables adoption of advanced products tailored to Indian needs at affordable prices. This includes localization and cost-effective design, aligned with market specifics. Over the course of ten years, the substantial investments made in the technical center located in Bangalore underscore a strong dedication to this approach. Considering the cost-sensitive nature of the Indian market, adapting technology locally remains crucial to ensure broad availability and improve vehicle safety. This, in turn, leads to a reduction in accidents and the associated societal impacts.

Conclusion: India stands on the brink of technological breakthroughs. The imminent surge in software and electronics content after 2025 promises remarkable advancements.