Indian co eyes driver's seat in driverless vehicle technology
Mid-summer, a group of IIT- graduates and their seniors were sweating it out on the outskirts of Gurugram, fiddling with their laptops to calibrate sensors as they prepare for yet another round of testing a fully driverless shuttle.
The campus of Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz Ltd offers very limited space for such testing but that has not stopped the company from developing Novus Drive autonomous shuttle that can ferry over six persons, which was showcased at the Auto Expo last year.
Gaurav Singh, an alumni of Carnegie Mellon University has spent close to three years on the project and for him seeing the shuttle drive on its own is a feeling that words cannot easily describe.
"This is about passion. To come up with such a product out here in India and not America, also shows what we can achieve with dedication and hard work," he said.
The company, founded in 2004 by Anuj Kapuria, who dropped out of his PhD programme at Carnegie Mellon University, has been working silently over the last decade to master driverless vehicles technology – a domain where Google and Tesla are the front runners.
However, being an Indian company in an area where not many have ventured into, it has not been an easy journey for Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz to come up with a driverless shuttle and such technology for other vehicles.
"One of the most challenging parts is the awareness and trust among global customers about the technology coming from India for self-driving vehicles," Kapuria said.
Yet, he said the company has been able to overcome the hurdle through intellectual property which it has generated over years both in the US, Europe along with India and other emerging countries.
When asked how confident is the company of competing with the likes of Google, Tesla and other global firms in the area of autonomous driving, he said: "We are competitive to the enabling tech if not better."
Elaborating further, he said: "When we compare with Google or Tesla, we still need to clock more self-driving miles to make our autopilot and fully autonomous algorithms more robust, which we are doing by collecting lot of data with our driver assistive systems."
Kapuria said while companies in India like Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz can play their part in the global pursuit for perfection of autonomous driving technology, government also needs to play its role to support the industry.
"We still do not have the regulatory framework to enable testing of autonomous vehicles," he said.