‘The car will become more of a companion than a tool’

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Tata Elxsi is gearing up for future mobility challenges



The core of the automobile is changing dramatically with a slew of technological changes underway. Thangarajan M, Senior Vice President, Next Generation, Tata Elxsi, dwells on these issues as well as the significance of artificial intelligence in the new world of mobility dominated by the theme of autonomous cars. Excerpts:

What do you have to say about the rapid changes happening in the automobile arena with technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The entire automotive industry is on the brink of a revolution where technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT are leading the change. They are going to revolutionise the way industry functions and how customers perceives the world of mobility. With IoT applications impacting advances in everything from sensors to big data analytics and AI, this is inevitable. Cars now seamlessly link to our smartphones, register real time traffic alerts and offer emergency roadside assistance at the touch of a button.

We are now progressing towards smart/connected cars, where many technologies go hand-in-hand and IoT becomes the most pertinent. Connected solutions can help monitor vehicle safety, use of fuel and fleet management while enhancing customer experience by connecting mobile phones and tablets to control the infotainment system.

Will AI’s role increase with the advent of driverless cars?

AI has a host of other applications and contributes to assisted driving such as automatic braking, pedestrian/cyclist alerts, and even collision avoidance. These concepts are being tested in many driverless car companies and explain why AI alone is expected to be worth $3061 billion by 2024.

AI-based systems will become an integral part of infotainment systems in cars. We are already seeing developments such as speech recognition, and in the next five years, will see further growth such as gesture recognition, driver monitoring, and even sensor fusion engine control units.

How do you see AI making a difference in road safety or radar-based communication?

AI is making a difference through simple concepts such as pedestrian alerts and collision alerts. Road and driver safety is one of the major concerns when it comes to driverless cars. Today we have AI systems that can detect a collision seconds before it is visible.

At Tata Elxsi, we have also worked on projects involving driver drowsiness detection system where the system will be triggered by the signal pulse. AI systems take data from camera images, sensors and other components and subject them to algorithms. Consequently, we will be able to address many issues such as detecting the nearest fuel stations.

With cars packing in a number of chips/computers, will daily commute completely change in the coming years?

A typical high-end luxury car can have up to 150 electronic control units: the engine control unit manages the efficiency of the car, the steering and surround view system prevents collisions; the telematics system provides information on local hot spots; and the electronic stability/traction control maintains proper steering and sensors that deploy airbags during a collision. These are but a few examples.

Now the logical evolution is the intelligence in these systems, which will radically change the way we commute and interact with our car. In a few years from now, the car will become more of a companion than a tool.

AI-based systems will grow to become standard in new vehicles over the next five years especially in infotainment human-machine interface, including speech recognition, gesture recognition (such as handwriting recognition), eye tracking and driver monitoring, virtual assistance and natural language interfaces.

The other area is in the autonomous vehicle, including camera-based machine vision systems, radar-based detection units, driver condition evaluation and sensor fusion engine control units.

Can you explain some of the focus areas in your company?

Some of the new areas for development being researched are adaptive driver surroundings, ergonomic adjustment of interior surrounding based on driver posture/position and in-vehicle ambience control in an autonomous vehicle where the interior can be transformed for a more relaxed feel like living room.

Tata Elxsi is already testing autonomous driving and is also working on fleet management, pattern recognition for traffic signs, automatic path planning for shortest route and many other areas. Our work samples include night vision systems, lane departure and signboard recognition, pedestrian detection, park assistance, driver drowsiness detection and blind spot warning systems.

The connected car showcase also includes infotainment architecture with enhanced cyber security, telematics, IoT-related engineering and services for vehicle health management and value-added services.

What was once considered just a figment of the imagination, AI is seeping into our everyday lives. We are still a few years away from having terminators or cyborgs but AI has already had a profound impact in more subtle ways. Weather forecasts, email spam filtering, Google’s search predictions, and voice recognition such as Apple’s Siri are some examples. What these technologies have in common are machine-learning algorithms that enable them to react and respond in real time. These smart, networked computers on wheels will improve our lives in many ways.

Published on June 08, 2017

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