India continues to hold the dubious distinction of being the world’s leading market for the highest number of road accidents and fatalities. Unfortunately, these numbers seem to be on the rise, even though the content of safety systems and technologies in our vehicles are increasing. To discuss the current scenario of road safety and help draw the future path to improve it, Auto Tech Review conducted the fourth edition of its seminar on Safety Driven by Technology. The seminar was held on July 25, 2017 in New Delhi with the theme “Vision Zero – The Role of Technology,” which is the commitment being made by the industry to help reduce fatalities and accidents on the road.
The daylong seminar saw the participation of experts representing OEMs, suppliers of components and technologies, engineering partners, along with government and certification bodies. The seminar was divided into two main topics of discussion – Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and automotive lighting, with both topics having technical sessions followed by interactive panel discussions.
An overview of the importance and role of technologies to improve the level of safety in our country were provided in the inaugural session through the keynote addresses. While Rama Shankar Pandey, Managing Director, Hella India Lighting, gave the chairman’s address, the keynote was provided by Prashant K Banerjee, Deputy Executive Director, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
Pandey highlighted the fact that despite the significant development of technologies and safety systems, there is still a gap in the amount of adoption and use of these systems by the consumers. These limitations are mostly a result of incomplete or incorrect perception of users on the costs related to these technologies. Rather than a reactionary or resigned approach, India needs to take a proactive approach to deal with road accidents, he said.
In his keynote address, Banerjee provided perspectives on the global industry for road safety, the evolution of safety technologies in India, as well as the need for relevant solutions. He noted that the extent to which technology will substitute enforcement will be a long debate, but the real need is for relevant technologies to help improve the movement of traffic on roads safely.
Additionally, with India now being the largest two-wheeler market globally, a lot of focus is on the level of safety currently present. Having said this, it must be noted that two-wheeler regulations in India are at par, and in some conditions even higher than those regulations seen in Europe. However, in the area of two-wheelers, there is a need for interventions in terms of tracking, telematics and other driver assistance systems.
An important area of focus that needs attention is that of the vehicles at parc, which form almost 96 % of the vehicles on road. While a number of new technologies and solutions relating to safety can be introduced to newly launched vehicles, there is a need to update existing vehicles on the road with safety technologies to bring them up to speed with other newly-introduced vehicles. This will require low-cost and easy-to-adopt solutions, which a number of suppliers are offering already. Banerjee observed that India requires solutions that are appropriate for the country and need to be customised even according to the different segments within the industry.
In recent times, driver assistance systems have evolved to ease the process of driving. Speakers in the first technical session on ADAS noted that majority of road fatalities are caused due to driver error, which highlights the relevance of the driver assistance technologies present in our vehicles. Simply copying regulations from Europe and applying them in India won’t work, said Deepak Sawkar, Senior Vice President, Chassis Design, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. There is a need to conduct our own scientific analysis of road accident data in the country, in order to come up with safety systems and technologies that are appropriate to address those findings.
Electronic stability programme (ESP), forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control (ACC) are seen to be the safety technologies that could become a standard feature in upcoming passenger car models of the future. In the case of commercial vehicles, inter-connectivity of vehicles with one another, as well as with the infrastructure will make them safer. One common deduction of OEM representatives was that the growing adoption of safety technologies will drive the costs of these solutions lower.
ADAS in India would mostly require the technologies to provide warnings to the driver to help him react in time to collisions or obstacles and stop such an incident. The key is to have multiple sensors on board, along with the fusion of these sensors to carry out combined processing of information. This makes sensors smart and connected in a network, resulting in safer driving that could also bring about semi-autonomous driving.
It was also noted that autonomous driving, which is an important safety technology, is not the same as driverless vehicles. This is because the former accommodates a driver who takes over vehicle navigation parameters, whenever necessary, and then returns it back to the vehicle. Driverless vehicles carry out the task of moving from one place to another completely independently, and may be more than a decade or two away, even in highly-developed countries.
It must also be noted that autonomous vehicles need to go through a large amount of testing, running into many millions of kilometres that would take a large amount of time. This testing, however, could also be digitally-simulated in order to shift through various scenarios, as well as speed up the testing process. This also highlights the importance of software development for ADAS and their adoption in a simulated platform.
Engineering or technology is not going to be effective without the other blocks of education, enforcement and emergency care, noted Dr N Saravanan, Senior Vice President, Product Development, Ashok Leyland. There are a number of technologies, especially in terms of lighting that are fairly inexpensive, which can be employed in vehicles and could take the level of safety to a higher position. But the potential of these technologies cannot be extracted to their fullest without the backing of education and enforcement.
In terms of automotive lighting technologies, LED is gaining most prominence in the industry, having the capability to be developed with a number of safety features. LED technology offers companies to design lights that are safer, with solutions to reduce glare, automatically adjust the intensity of the light and provide feedback for warning systems. More advanced lighting technologies like adaptive lights are solutions that could also help improve safety on roads, especially at night.
The most important safety feature about automotive lighting is primarily to increase the level of vehicle visibility. It should also be noted that there are a number of connected safety solutions that can make use of lighting technologies. There is also a need to carry out frugal engineering in the area of lighting, especially in India, where simple solutions could result in more relevant and usable technologies.
Panel discussions for both topics were moderated by Kaushik Madhavan, Director – Automotive and Transportation, MENASA, Frost & Sullivan. The first panel discussion was on ‘Drawing a specific roadmap for ADAS in India – what the industry needs to focus on.’ Panellists noted that there is a need for the correct use of simple safety technologies in India, before there any adoption of much-higher levels of ADAS. Even in terms of driver assistance systems, there is a need to incorporate simple technologies in vehicles, which would find more usage in our environment.
Being a price-sensitive market, the issue of pricing for the Indian market also needs to be considered. Carrying out collaborative work between suppliers and OEMs can help make systems more robust, while also helping reduce costs. Additionally, the time to develop such systems can be further reduced by the use of simulation software and technologies. Acceleration through simulation is the only way to ensure adequate testing for autonomous cars is carried out, noted Rafiq Somani, Country Manager – South Asia Pacific & Middle East, ANSYS.
The discussion also touched upon the role of companies to integrate topics like ADAS into the curriculum of educational institutions. There is a need for the automotive community to work along with the academia and start-ups, especially since they can help provide more cost-effective solutions with their differentiated ideation, to developments being carried out by companies.
The panel discussion on automotive lighting covered the theme of ‘Innovating for the world – Can India take the lead?’ Panellists noted that there is a necessity to understand the requirement of customers and then the need to validate the product developed to ensure its life. Component suppliers noted that there is a high level of reverse innovation taking place that has helped companies sell technologies developed in India to global markets.
Automotive lighting and ADAS are not two separate safety technologies, but in reality, lighting forms a part of ADAS. The seminar showed that stakeholders cannot look at various safety technologies individually, but will need to integrate them together to bring out complete solutions to enhance safety levels.
In addition to this, there is a need to bring together engineering and education, in the sense that while the level of technology is increasing, there is also a need to educate the masses on the use of these systems and technologies. Early education and basic training on the use of technologies, along with the integration of the entire eco-system would help drive the industry towards achieving its vision of achieving zero fatalities and accidents through safety technologies.