Driverless buses may soon hit Indian roads

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 27, 2018


Tata Motors begins trials at its Pune campus

Driverless cars may be many years away from reaching India, but driverless buses and trucks could hit Indian roads as early as 2020.

Tata Motors has begun trials for driverless buses at its Pune campus, where a full-fledged bus has been plying on a fixed route, without any human intervention, for two months.

Sensors have been placed at simulated bus stops, and the bus slows as it approaches them. It stops to allow passengers to board and alight and then continues on its journey.

“We have the prototype ready with several sensors such as optical sensors, proximity sensors, and even radar. These sensors are now easily available off-the-shelf but we’ve put them together to create a fully autonomous bus that we are testing within our campus,” a senior executive from Tata Motors told BusinessLine.

Tata Motors says it is taking extreme caution to ensure the vehicle adheres to safety norms. Currently the buses run at less than 10 kmph within the campus. However, as the platform stabilises, the company said it would test them at higher speeds and more realistic road conditions.

Mahindra has also started trials for driverless technology. But Group Chairman Anand Mahindra says driverless technology in India will be first seen in tractors.

Tough terrain

Lack of disciplined driving makes driverless technology extremely difficult for Indian roads. However, buses that ply on a dedicated corridor or at industrial sites or rural locations may not have such limitations. That has sparked interest from Indian manufacturers to try driverless technology in these areas.

Driverless buses and trucks also solve the biggest issue plaguing the transportation industry — non-availability of drivers.

However, before a fully autonomous bus or a truck, the Tata Motors executive said semi-autonomous vehicles would take to the roads.

“Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) would ... solve significant challenges for drivers, making the drive less stressful and a lot safer,” the executive said.

ADAS features, most of which are already available in luxury cars automate certain tasks. For instance, the Range Rover Evoque has a ‘Park Assist’ feature, wherein the car parks itself in the nearest vacant parking spot.

Published on January 25, 2017

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