Tata Elxsi to Test Driverless Vehicles in India

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【Summary】In another big twist, a local automaker recently announced it is ready to take on the challenge of taming the country’s hazardous roads with self-driving technology: Tata Elxsi.

Original Michael Cheng    Jan 26, 2017 6:48 AM PT
Tata Elxsi to Test Driverless Vehicles in India

The roads of India have a bone-chilling reputation for being one of the most dangerous places to drive in the world. According to NDTV, a staggering 1.3 million local residents were killed in car accidents in 2013. The Times of India reported similar statistics, citing over 400 road deaths occur per day in India (that's one person every 3.6 minutes). 

This devastating trend suggests self-driving cars could help curtail car accidents in the country. However, there's a huge twist to this solution - most companies developing driverless platforms, including Uber, have shunned the idea of deploying pilot programs in the area, due to the overwhelming challenges of navigating the country's busy, crowded streets. During an interview with NDTV, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick explained that mature, AI-powered autonomous driving systems are required to tackle the streets of India.

In another big twist, a local automaker recently announced it is ready to take on the challenge of taming the country's hazardous roads with self-driving technology: Tata Elxsi.


Seeking Permission 

The local Indian design firm, which is under billion-dollar conglomerate Tata Group, has everything it needs to succeed in a location it knows very well. With virtually "unlimited" resources and robust automotive research teams, the publicly-trading business has asked permission from the government to test its fleet of self-driving cars in the streets of Bangalore, where it is also currently based. Like other driverless prototypes, the vehicles will be equipped with ultrasonic sensors, LIDAR components and stereoscopic cameras. For now, Tata Elxsi does not intend on launching a fully autonomous car for public consumption. It claims it is only testing the technology for research purposes.

"I don't think for a country like India you are gonna see, as Travis said, completely automated cars. But just like technology assisting humans, we make cars over time so that they are safer, the driving experience is comfortable, and people's quality of life improves and overall society improves because the cars are shared better," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

 V2X PR.jpg

Closed-Door Testing

The company will not be creating a self-driving car from scratch. Instead, it will build on existing sedans, provided by Tata Motors (also under Tata Group and owner of Jaguar Land Rover). Tata Elxsi is no stranger to autonomous driving technology. Three years ago, while other automakers were still contemplating on entering the nascent sector, the business was already testing a modified Tata Motors Zest sedan on programmed routes. Over 100 employees rode in the vessel during the successful pilot program.

Furthermore, Tata Elxsi, through a partnership with Spirent, has launched a scalable vehicle-to-everything (V2X) test system designed for automotive application benchmarking in various parts of the developmental cycle, including pre-production. The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) in Beijing is one of the first groups to adopt the V2X testing platform.

"With China being the largest automotive market in the world, this latest win with CAICT in China is significant for us and automotive companies targeting this market," highlighted Nitin Pai, senior vice president of marketing, Tata Elxsi.

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