Autonomous driving and driver assistance systems are currently buzzwords for the global auto industry, and in accordance with this, Indian technology developers and suppliers are also gearing up to meet future requirements. One company that’s committed to providing safe and connected mobility solutions is The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz Ltd (THRSL), which in a short span of time has been able to develop scalable and smart driver assistance systems for the domestic and international markets. Auto Tech Review met Ritukar Vijay, Head of Robotics – Tech & Strategy, THRSL, to discuss the road ahead for automotive safety and driver assistance systems.
AREAS OF OPERATION
The company currently has long-term agreements with multiple OEMs for developing Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driver software and hardware systems. Vijay said that the current focus is to cover the entire spectrum of autonomy, wherein the company not only provides expertise on driver assistance systems, but also provides incremental value addition towards building a safe ecosystem for autonomous driving.
Explaining the various stages of autonomous driving, Vijay said that while the L0 stage only provides warning signals, the L1 stage provides braking assistance along with audio-visual warnings. Moving up the ladder, the L2 and L3 stages provide cruise control and auto pilot operations, where the vehicle can maintain a set distance from other vehicles while travelling on the highway, while travelling at a set speed. L4 technology, or the ‘mind off’ stage, is currently the most advanced stage being talked about, but is still in the development phase and not yet fully ready for production.
The advantage offered by the company is scalability, which allows technology users to upgrade according to their requirements. This module works for the Indian market as well, as the type of usage data collected helps the company mitigate concerns, which are not found in the western markets. Vijay said that this enables the company to use the data collected from the ADAS system to develop and improve the autonomous driving platform as well. Data gathering is thus an important aspect for the company to generate solutions applicable across markets.
THRSL currently has a fully-functional R&D setup in Gurgaon, wherein around 120 specialists are employed in deep learning, machine learning and other applications. The key domains for research initiatives are in the field of computer vision and machine learning. The company has a strong connect with the Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pennsylvania and a few German Universities that provide a global talent pool and a wide spectrum of ideas for R&D development.
ADAS & VEHICLE SAFETY
In order to make it easier for drivers to adapt faster to new driving systems, the company provides a driver awareness and attentiveness monitoring system based on machine learning. This is connected to a cloud-based fleet management system, with contextual intelligence, which in turn is connected with vehicle telematics that enable driver profiling and coaching for safer driving.
Advancements in driver assistance systems are occurring at a rapid pace and the company intends to continue using computer vision and multiple sensor fusion techniques to not only provide a perspective of the external occurrences, outside a vehicle, but also keep the occupants informed about the internal ecosystem that corresponds to vehicle dynamics. Together, a strong contextual engine is created, which helps in giving out intelligent, timely alerts thereby reducing the chances of an accident.
To ensure process optimisation for large operations, both the software and the hardware elements need to be designed and calibrated for space and structural efficiency. Deep learning and computer vision-based driver assistive systems have traditionally been developed by the company for providing alerts for forward collision, lane departure and vulnerable user detection. The system is scalable to provide autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and highway autopilot.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Being part of a large supply chain structure, Vijay said that an important factor in the development of ADAS systems is keeping costs in check, since OEMs would not be willing to spend extra for a technology that is yet to gain mass adoption as standard fitment. As THRSL is currently the preferred choice for many OEMs, the initial high costs have gradually been brought under check due to economies of scale.
The journey to achieve improved active safety in vehicles has started and while technologies such as ADAS might take a while to find their way to smaller cars, Vijay said that to begin with, Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) should be made mandatory in all vehicles. This, coupled with mandatory ABS, should provide a positive boost to safety in Indian vehicles. Currently radar-based AEBs are already available in the market. However, Indian roads would require a camera-based setup to complement the operations of the radar systems, to identify and safeguard a vulnerable element on the road, such as a pedestrian, a vehicle, or a static object.
In terms of the development and adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) for mobility, Vijay said that while the Indian scenario urgently needs a V2X communication framework, the existing infrastructure is rudimentary and creating intelligent infrastructure will also be a challenge. Also, customer behaviour will be difficult to gauge, as the cost-to-value proposition might put IoT at a disadvantage.
Vehicle owners have traditionally opted to spend on entertainment options and other similar tangible ‘gadgets,’ rather than on safety-related technologies. While safety advancements cannot be mandated immediately, the government should incentivise such technology, which compels car owners to opt for those, thereby increasing the overall safety aspect of their vehicles by a
TEXT: Anwesh Koley