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Autonomous cars are the future and there is no doubt about it. There are many major companies working on different levels of autonomy, and India too is advancing towards self-driving cars. Autonomous cars in India are not as far in the future as one might perceive. In fact, indigenously developed autonomous cars are already here.
The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz is a company which has spearheaded the development of self-driving cars in India, and here is their technology working in all its glory. The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz Is a smart-mobility company based out of Gurugram, Haryana which specialises in vehicles which rely heavily on technology for their movement.
With a purpose to enhance human life through smart robotics, the company has developed a variety of products ranging from autonomous and driver assistive systems, to smart mobility robots for movement of goods in industrial and warehousing systems.
THRSL has also developed a driver assistive system called Novus-Aware which constantly monitors the driver's surroundings and the driver himself, to make driving on Indian roads much safer than it is.
DriveSpark had a conversation with Mr Ritukar Vijay, The Head of Technology and Product Strategy at The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz. Our conversation about the company and its products went like this:
DriveSpark: Developing Autonomous & Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) technology for Indian roads. This very sentence sounds like a big challenge. How did The High-Tech Robotic Systemz go about this?
Ritukar Vijay: We approached product development from the aspect of road safety. We want to impact lives by reducing the number of accidents taking place daily. In a country like india, there are too many accidents, so there is a wide scope for us to make an impact in that area.
Hence, driver assistive systems are very much needed given the dangerous situation road conditions India.
DriveSpark: Your ADAS technology is capable of detecting even animals on the road. This of course is very much necessary for Indian roads. Could this also carve the way for your systems to be used in other countries with similar road conditions?
Ritukar Vijay: There are multiple algorithms for multiple data sets. So far, over a million images and its data have been analysed. The only problem that remains is human behaviour on the road.
These algorithms work well for western countries because of discipline on the road and well-marked roads. For example, while driving in America, over a span of one week, one might find maybe just a person jumping out randomly in front of the car, but it is the opposite in India.
However, the algorithm that we have developed for Indian conditions can easily be applied to other asian countries with similar road conditions.
DriveSpark: Talk to us about NOVUS. Where did the idea for Novus come from?
Ritukar Vijay: NOVUS is a brand name which means ‘new'. All our products are named uner the NOVUS brand. NOVUS pilot is a product which basically helps pilot the vehicle by making the driver aware, NOVUS Drive is an autonomous driving technology, NOVUS Jack is an autonomous forklift, etc.
DriveSpark: How does NOVUS Aware work in Indian conditions? Doesn't the trigger go off at every junction?
Ritukar Vijay: Aware is a camera based system, with sensors, which is always monitoring the driver to check if he/she is attentive and is capable of detecting if the driver uses the phone while driving.
NOVUS Pilot is a 3-camera system monitoring the outside of the car to classify objects outside, including vulnerable users like pedestrians and bike riders. If it detects an obstacle, it first alerts the driver through an audio warning. If the driver does not react, it applies the brakes automatically.
DriveSpark: NOVUS Pilot seems like it would be very useful for fleets to monitor their drivers.
Ritukar Vijay: Yes, we are working with the top 5 fleets in India to implement this technology. Trials and surveys have so far given us very convincing data.
DriveSpark: What is the future of automated vehicles and the robotics industry in India?
Ritukar Vijay: Driver assistive systems are the first step toward autonomy, but we have started working on fully automated vehicles as well. We have been working on vehicles used in mines, on fields, in tech campuses, etc for a few indian OEMs. Autonomous vehicles in a controlled environment is not very far fetched. However, for usage on public roads, it will take a longer time.
DriveSpark: How do you think would people accept autonomous vehicles in India?
Ritukar Vijay: Five years earlier, the largest number of vehicles sold in India were lower variants of any selected model. This has evolved into the top-spec vairant selling the most as people are now keeping in mind safety as well.
Parking sensors and airbags are now common. So, people will change to adapt to driverless vehicles too. The same logic applies to commercial vehicles as well.
DriveSpark: Speaking of the future and growth of autonomous vehicles in India, What would you say about Indian transport minister Nitin Gadkari's approach towards self-driving cars and calling them harmful to the economy?
Ritukar Vijay: One has to look at perspective as well, and Mr Gadkari was talking about Level 5 autonomous vehicles, which are the most advanced driverless vehicles and which do not require any sort of interference from a driver. This will take another 15 years to come into the market.
The tech we are talking about, is between Level 1 and Level 4 of autonomy. Since completely driverless vehicles are far off, there would be no immediate job losses.
Companies like The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz Limited are putting India on the map for autonomous vehicles and their effort in this regard has to be appreciated. Whether all Indians would be able to adapt to autonomous cars or not is to be seen in the future.