Tech Mahindra to make cars smarter than missiles

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 22, 2018

Karthikeyan Natarajan, Global Head, Integrated Engineering Solutions, Tech Mahindra

To develop driverless technology for both passenger and commercial vehicles

IT services firm Tech Mahindra expects revenue from the driverless car technology it provides to auto customers to double each year for the next three-five years, according to a senior executive.

The company is developing next generation technologies for at least six of 10-12 automakers to develop driverless cars.

“We are working with both passenger as well as commercial vehicles. Within passenger cars, we are working on both electric vehicles as well as regular gasoline engines,” Karthikeyan Natarajan, Global Head, Integrated Engineering Solutions, told BusinessLine.

While fully autonomous vehicles could be five-six years away, according to Natarajan, semi-autonomous features such as park assist, highway and urban drive assist will start getting embedded into cars and will be available in them starting as early as 2016. “This will be a stepping stone towards larger autonomous systems,” he said.

Tech Mahindra has about 200 people working in the driverless car technology space, where the company is trying to make cars smarter than self-guided missiles.

“Self-guided missiles are much simpler to design than autonomous cars. A lot of features of a self-guided missile will be used in driverless vehicles but this will be a lot more complex.

“With snowy condition, the camera inputs may not be good, so the driverless car needs to use other systems as well such as GPS, proximity sensors and radars to make decisions in line with a human driver,” Natarajan said

Some of the top-end cars are already laden with a number of technologies that automate some tasks, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure detection.

Automakers such as Audi and Range Rover are already offering features such as 'Park Assist', wherein the car parks itself into the nearest vacant parking spot or ‘Highway assist’, wherein your car automatically follows the movements of any car in front like a guided missile, including braking, turning and speeding.

Natarajan says such features would be a commonplace in most modern cars within a couple of years.

Maps, focal point

According to Natarajan, maps will be the focal point of driverless technologies that’ll help the system decide when the car should steer, brake or speed.

“The current maps available have an accuracy of about 1.5 metres. With autonomous vehicles that kind of error rate is too big. You can end up turning before a signal or much after that. Therefore, the car must know what’s there within 20 cm, which is six times better accurate than what is available today,” he said.

According to Natarajan, the same driverless technology would be relevant for other industries as well. “The camera-based technology used in driverless cars can be used to have a visibility of the supply chain. Inspection and quality checks can also be automated with these technologies. Imaging can help eliminate manual processes and improve quality assurance,” he said.

While the driverless technology adoption is expected to go mainstream in the next 3-5 years, according to Natarajan, this business will also have a cascading effect on the company’s data and software business. “Autonomous system is all about how accurate is your software and how good is your data quality, which will drive our software and data business as well.”

Manufacturing is the biggest vertical for Tech Mahindra, and within manufacturing, the integrated engineering solutions is the fastest growing for the company, Natarajan said.

Published on September 25, 2015

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