Bengaluru: Mahindra Group is all set to join an elite league of companies such as Google, Tesla, BMW and Audi that are experimenting with driverless cars.
Mahindra’s electric car subsidiary, Mahindra Reva, has submitted proof of concepts for driverless cars in the UK and Singapore, a senior executive told ET. “We have already begun experiments in our R&D facility in Bengaluru. Once we get approvals from the respective governments, we’ll start testing these cars on road,” the executive said.
Mahindra Reva will need 3-4 years to develop a production model after starting trials, according to the executive. While the road tests would be carried out in the UK and Singapore, the software to control the car’s movement and other aspects is under development at the company’s research and development facilities in India, in partnership with the group’s technology arm, Tech Mahindra, the executive said.
A Mahindra spokesperson declined to comment on the development. “In terms of Indian car makers, Mahindra has always been the most innovative.
This culture is driven from the top with their moto Mahindra Rise,” said Satish RM, principal research analyst at Gartner. “The biggest challenge they’ll face is in building different technologies for different countries because of varied regulatory environment.”
Today’s top-end cars are laden with a number of technologies that automate some tasks, such as intelligent cruise control and lane-departure detection. Range Rover Evoque has a ‘Park Assist’ feature, wherein the car parks itself into the nearest vacant parking spot.
Mahindra Reva currently has about 2,000 electric cars on India’s roads, each with more than 100 sensors attached. The company collects data from the cars for analysis and diagnosis, as even offers a feature to fix many glitches remotely.
The Mahindra executive mentioned above said this data will be crucial for the company to understand how various functions of a car can be automated.
The executive, however, said the company so far has no plans to test driverless cars in India. “Indian roads are too crowded to test driverless cars at the moment. Currently, our focus is on the US, Europe and South-East Asian markets. Once these experiments are successful, we might start road tests in India as well.”
Mahindra is also trying to crowdsource some of the innovation in the area of driverless cars. The company last month began a driverless car challenge, inviting engineers to build such cars for a prize money of $700,000.
The project will let the selected teams build driverless car prototypes for decongesting Indian roads. The first edition will have a timeline of 2-3 years split into three phases.
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