Fisheyebox is the name of the first Indian company to build a self-driving car (Level 3 Autonomy). They built it in 2017 and are today developing software for companies like Mercedes Benz. The steering wheel-less Celerio was built on a shoestring budget of Rs 20 lakh. The machine built by Project Aerodrive was tested publicly by Youtuber Hormazd Sorabjee.
The future is not so hard to predict. One thing you can count on is that self-driving vehicles will remain on the news for decades to come. Uber has even announced plans to build self-driving flying cars. Odds are, your kids will soon be behind the wheel of a robot car from The Future. Teslas are nothing but the first pioneers of a whole new way of thinking about transportation.
So are self-driving cars safe? Will we see them in India anytime soon?
This is what this article will cover:
- What are self-driving vehicles?
- Are they safe?
- What is the state of AVs in India?
What Are Autonomous Vehicles?
Indian culture is often fascinated by cutting edge tech. It’s ironic then, how old this idea is of a car driving itself. The first form of autonomous driving happened when cruise control was invented in America in 1948. The evolution of cars has kept rolling down the highway ever since.
There are five Levels of Automation. They start from 0, which means a normal car with no cruise control. This spectrum goes up to 5, which means full automation. Driver assistance is Level 1. This is already familiar in many homes. Examples include cruise control or when the car monitors and maintains a safe distance from the next car.
Tesla self-driving function is currently Level 2 autonomous, but Elon Musk said in an interview that by mid 2020, Teslas should be able to sustain full level 5 automation.
Are They Safe?
According to Hormazd and many other brave souls who have been driven by a car that has no steering wheel, it is a freaky experience. People don’t tend to take their eyes off the road, even though hypothetically they should be able to with no problem.
In terms of statistics, 81/88 accidents involving AVs in California since 2014 were the result of human error and not of the car itself. Only one accident was deemed a mechanical glitch.
Lampart & Walsh, Denver car accident lawyers say, “Most car accidents are born from small mistakes, like momentary distractions or unknowingly speeding.” Self-driving cars make even more sense if you consider that in many parts of the world drunk driving is going to happen whether it’s punished or not
Nevertheless, the question is not a simple one. To answer it, you must understand how car safety is gauged. Relative car safety is measured by fatality per 100 million miles. This question is not totally answerable yet because no single car manufacturer owns 100 million miles-worth of research.
What is the State of Self-driving Cars in India?
Of course, India is a unique challenge to AV manufacturers due to its unpredictable roads. The short answer to the state of driverless cars in India is that progress is very slow. The panorama for domestic AVs is bleak despite the fact that this Celerio was converted into a Level 3 Autonomous vehicle with a teeny tiny budget. The car even fired up by voice command.
This is due to infrastructure problems, driver culture, and lack of government support. The most likely Indian contribution to AVs will be in software like Fisheyebox’s Pedestrian Detection Control system.
In 2019, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said he will never allow driverless vehicles in India due to the potential for loss of jobs.
There are a few Indian companies that show promise. However, the future of AVs in India is probably more geared toward autonomous tractors than passenger vehicles. Mahindra showcased the first Level 2 Autonomous tractor in India in 2018.
Project Aerodrive by Fisheyebox was a media success when it came out in 2017 and today the company counts on several significant clients, but they will have to remain clients abroad for now.