Self-driving cars are no longer a subject of fiction. Global tech giants like Google and Tesla have made giant strides towards developing self-driving vehicles. For a country like India, where the roads are not smart enough, these cars may be a few years away. But for now, a number of companies are using cutting-edge technologies to make Indian roads smarter as well as safer. As per the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry report, India has one of the highest numbers of road accidents in the world. The report says that India witnessed 7 deaths and 55 road accidents every hour in 2016.
Technology to the fore
Advance Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) is a human-machine interface that uses advanced sensors to track surroundings to alert the driver about potential problems such as collision. ADAS is most likely to become a standard feature in vehicles in the coming years.
Another important technology developed is the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) scanner, which analyses data from the vehicle, such as mileage statistics and maintenance alerts. OBD devices are already becoming increasingly common in modern cars.
In 2000, Maruti Suzuki India had formed a joint venture with the transport department of multiple states to set up the Institute of Driving and Traffic Research (IDTR). The venture focuses on making Indian roads safer. IDTR is now using Microsoft’s HAMS (Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety), an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven solution that uses low-cost technology to ensure road safety. The system essentially uses the rear and front cameras, GPS and inertial sensors of a dashboard-mounted mobile phone along with an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD-II) scanner, the device that reads the data from the vehicle’s computer.
Gaze tracking enables analysing mirror scanning behaviour, for example, to detect episodes when a driver stares ahead for a prolonged period, thereby failing to maintain awareness of their surroundings.
HAMS is currently being used by ITDR to revisit the footage and analytics after every training session to send a feedback to their students. But use case for HAMS goes beyond just driver training. Microsoft believes the technology can be deployed for actual issuance of driver licence or parents can use it to monitor the driving of their teenage children. Microsoft’s HAMS, however, is not the only driver assistive technology in the works.
CEANTRA Technologies, a Delhi-based startup, is developing a connected car Operating System (OS) around its Smart CarX, a connected vehicle platform that enables monitoring of vehicle health, better road safety and data driven online driver marketplace.