India wittingly or unwittingly has earned an infamous reputation for registering the highest number of road fatalities in the world. This is hardly surprising considering the fact that the country, over many decades now, has never quite accorded the ‘required importance’ to road safety. Just sample this: 150,000 people are killed in India each year in road accidents that translates into 400 deaths daily; one person dies every four minutes.
That is an ominous statistic and is far more than developed nations like USA, where around 40,000 die every year due to road accidents. Clearly, India has a long path to walk before it can come anywhere close to matching global safety standards. And to brainstorm the road safety issues plaguing in the country as well as to chalk up a future roadmap for road safety improvements, Auto Tech Review recently organised the 5th edition of the ‘Seminar on Safety Driven by Technology’ in New Delhi.
Held on 25th July, the daylong seminar deliberated on the theme “Vision Zero – The Role of Technology”, a commitment undertaken by the industry to reduce road fatalities and accidents. The seminar witnessed diverse perspectives being shared by various industry experts comprising OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, technology providers, government entities, certification bodies, etc across the two critical technology domains of automotive lighting and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), followed by a highly engaging panel discussion.
Delivering his speech during the inaugural session, Rama Shankar Pandey, Conference Chairman and Managing Director, Hella India Lighting said that the conference has provided a launch pad to build a common collective platform to take the safety agenda forward and exhorted all not to keep it confined to discussions alone. Vehemently voicing his concerns about the overall road safety movement in India, Pandey stated that the country has made little progress as far as the commitment of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways to halve the number of road accidents and fatalities by 2020 is concerned. He added that such a scenario can be frustrating and urged all to stay motivated if the safety drive across the country has to be a success story. Acknowledging that the country is ambitious on regulations, Pandey said that road safety success cannot be attained by regulations alone and stressed the importance of innovations towards driving its success.
He criticised the delay in passing of the Road Safety Bill (Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2016), saying it has been posing roadblocks to the safety movement. It is important to note that the Road Safety Bill focuses on five key areas – helmets, seat belts, child safety restraints, speeding and drunk driving.
Neeti Sarkar, CEO & PD, NATRiP felt that a lot of safety aspects are not well known and accentuated the importance of connecting at the idea level of what is safety and what constitutes safety. It is imperative to recognise the capacities and start using them, she pointed out. Throwing light on the ‘Vision Zero’ initiative that was launched in Sweden in 1997 and subsequently in many other nations, Sarkar said that a big question hangs over how India will achieve zero fatality rate.
Sarkar stated that the auto industry is witnessing improved technologies in automobiles as well as improved vehicle designs, but wondered if all these initiatives are making pedestrians or affected passengers in other vehicles safer. The NATRiP CEO added that each road accident-related death has an impact of lowering the country’s GDP and called for a robust focus on training new drivers or retrain drivers when they shift from one vehicle category to another along with specialised training (driving on rainy, slipper roads, etc). On the subject of enforcement, she said it is unjust to always pin the blame on the government. Enforcement has to begin from all of us; starting with following the road safety norms.
Prashant Kumar Banerjee, Executive Director (Technical), SIAM, said that the five levels of autonomous vehicles will actually drive ADAS. Shedding light on a brain-off and mind-off situations, Banerjee said that in a brain-off situation the vehicle takes on its own and will not ask the driver to overtake, while in a mind-off situation the vehicle will be reminded of ‘taking over’ in case of a crisis. He added that regulators are struggling beyond level 3 of autonomous vehicles owing to various complexities. From the Indian perspective, Banerjee stated that road discipline should be the country’s main focus area and wondered what OEMs are offering to improve road safety.
The SIAM Executive Director said that all stakeholders are working closely to explore technological possibilities to push the safety agenda forward. He expressed his concerns over enforcement of speed limiters in vehicles as there is a degree of reluctance among vehicle occupants to use it. The need of the hour is to mull safety solutions in the Indian context. He believes leveraging Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is the best option for the Indian market. The objective should be to ensure improved driver road behaviour and improved transport efficiency facilitating safer movement of goods and services, he remarked.
In his keynote address, Mahesh Rajoria, Senior Advisor – Driver Training, Maruti Suzuki India said driver’s fault is the major cause of road crashes in India and added that speeding constitutes 44 % of road crashes. He stressed that a high focus on ‘training the trainer’ at various driving schools will pave the way for safer drivers on Indian roads. Rajoria also elaborated on ARITRA – a camera-based image processing technology, which enables a trainer to offer on-the-spot feedback about a trainee’s performance and also take countermeasures to address improvement areas. ARITRA can be leveraged for issuing driving licenses and will make the driving license issuing process even more stringent, he added.
Rajoria also dwelt on the HAMS (Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety) technology Maruti has developed with the help of Microsoft Research India. HAMS uses mobile phone camera and AI-based applications to offer inputs to the trainer and trainee besides tracking the eye movement of the trainee. The HAMS technology apprises whether the driver is wearing a seat belt, talking on phone, maintaining safe distance from other vehicles, following road marking, etc, he noted.
The first session on ‘Automotive Lighting’ saw industry experts throw diverse perspectives. Dwelling on the increasing digitisation of light, Christian Haase, VP, Design and Development, Hella said lighting does not end in front or rear lighting, but also in the interior of the vehicle that enables a vehicle owner to take better care of the vehicle and also see what is going on outside the vehicle – thus ensuring a much more comfortable experience. There is a need for discussion of used cases in the Indian market and based on the used cases, the industry can together enhance road safety and offer individualisation for customers, thus building more road safety awareness.
Srinivas Aravapalli, Senior VP & Head – Product Development (Automotive Sector), Mahindra & Mahindra elaborated on the importance of night vision on Indian roads. All stakeholders, be it semiconductor suppliers, radar suppliers, camera suppliers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, test agencies and regulatory authorities should brainstorm and come up with cost-effective solutions that can be cross-deployed across various OEMs.
Talking at length about the various challenges confronting the Indian transport system, Tuhin Sinha, Advisor, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) said that the annual growth rate in vehicles remains unchallenged at 10-11%, as there is no vehicle rationing policy in place in India. The country has managed only 3 % reduction in road fatalities over the last two and a half years, which is way below the desired standards, he noted.
Avinash Padmappa, Business Development Manager for OPTIS Products, ANSYS India spoke about the many tools available in the market that can facilitate a created environment, be it a test track, specific region or country. The focus is on providing the real material information, bringing it into the product, and subsequently also bringing in all optical systems or camera information, sensors, the sensor position of that in your car, and how the position is going to influence the visualisation, Padmappa noted.
ADAS & PANEL DISCUSSION
The second session on ADAS saw industry experts provide thought-provoking perspectives. Dr Naveen Gautam, Managing Director, Hella India Automotive and Member of the Executive Board (Business Division- Electronics), Hella said two-wheeler deaths are posing a big concern as it contributes to 34 % of road deaths in India. 50 % of two-wheeler deaths can be converted into just injuries rather than life threatening situations if vehicle users wear helmets, he added. Acknowledging that the road user behaviour is the biggest concern area, Gautam said it is not always about being educated but also about changing the thought process and being good Samaritans to help accident victims.
Santanu Sonar, Section Head – ADAS, Continental Automotive India said there is plenty of scope for rolling out low-cost ADAS, cameras, various models to develop that focus on lane keeping and detecting lanes in all conditions. he wondered if the consumer is willing to accept the change in technology. Calling for enhanced R&D investments to pave the way for new technologies and solutions, he stated that India can adopt best practices from the mature markets.
Naveen Soni, President, SAFE and Vice President, Toyoto Kirloskar Motor urged all and sundry to shoulder responsibility for the much-needed road behavioural change. It is critical to not just talk about the technologies which come at a cost, but make them necessary as it will save lives, he added.
Raghavendra Bhat, Technical Consultant, India, South and Middle East, ANSYS highlighted the fact that automotive functional safety is a key concern, and OEMs and suppliers must conduct a full-fledged analysis of their capabilities, about what function is being provided, what malfunctions could occur, how this can be mitigated or how risks can be reduced (happening due to malfunctions). This can also lead to a significant increase in costs related to these functionalities, he added.
Mohammad Sah, Product Line Manager, Measurement and Calibration, Vector Informatik India said one of the key drivers for change in ADAS area is the ever-increasing number of sensors, which means the number of suppliers are also different. He deliberated on data fusion that pertains to software engineers (while developing such complex software for autonomous driving or ADAS) processing the information to take decision or manoeuvre the drive, and integrating the data from different sensors.
A panel discussion on titled “Keeping vehicles safe in a connected world – criticality of ADAS & Lighting” was held with Kaushik Madhavan, VP – Mobility, South Asia, Frost & Sullivan as the moderator. Panellists in the discussion included Tarun Agarwal, Sr VP (Engg), Maruti Suzuki India, Dr Naveen Gautam, Christian Haase, Prashant Kumar Banerjee and Dr Madhusudan Joshi, DGM, ICAT.
The seminar was supported by ANSYS as the Presenting Partner, Association Partner, Hella; Gold partners Continental, MSC Software and Vector; Co-Partner ATS; Supporting Partners ARAI and ICAT; and Knowledge Partner Frost & Sullivan.