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Much work needed, but “exciting” potential for connectivity in India

AUTOMOTIVE MEGATRENDS INDIA 2015: There is an opportunity to push highly connected vehicles into the Indian market, but it's not straightforward

Despite lagging behind developed markets, there is resounding optimism surrounding the potential for highly connected vehicles to infiltrate the Indian market. While the number of connected vehicles on Indian roads is reasonably low, some experts have suggested there is a boom waiting to happen.

Speaking at Automotive Megatrends India 2015, Gaurav Batra, Associate Director at EY, described the introduction of connectivity into the Indian auto industry as “just as significant as the smartphone revolution a few years ago.”

Bosch connected horizon
There is an opportunity to push highly connected vehicles into the Indian market, but it’s not straightforward

As it stands, around 1.5% of new vehicles on Indian roads feature connectivity as standard equipment, but this number is expected to swell in coming years. “By 2020, this will grow to about 3%, with close to a million connected vehicles on Indian roads” Brijesh Gubbi Suresh, Country Head, Connected Cloud Services at Bosch, told Automotive World.

What will cause the market share of connected vehicles to double in just over four years? A big part of it comes from similar forces prevalent in developed markets. As with the US and Europe, India’s millennial consumers demand continuous online connectivity in all aspects of their lives. However, OEMs are yet to offer comprehensive connectivity solutions, hence why aftermarket smartphone connectivity is booming. In addition, rising levels of telecommunication services and brand differentiation initiatives from OEMs will fuel the fire.

Effort needs to be made

However, as EY’s Batra explained: “There are aspects the industry needs to address before the connected car becomes a reality in the Indian market. There will be considerations around appropriate regulations for driving these connected vehicles on the road. In addition, regulators are looking to understand how to provide data privacy and cyber security. A lot of effort needs to be made here.”

What’s more, connected vehicles will not be able to operate to their potential if the relevant infrastructure is not in place. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication will be vital for active safety systems, location services and navigation systems, as Batra pointed out: “At the end of the day, you need infrastructure for a connected ecosystem for us to play in.”

Calm it down

Automotive Megatrends India
Speaking at Automotive Megatrends India 2015, a number of experts have suggested connectivity will be driven by consumer demand

According to the World Bank, India accounts for 15% of global traffic deaths each year. These chaotic traffic conditions can significantly raise driver stress levels, according to Debashis Mukherjee, Director, Corporate Technology Group at Harman.

During his presentation at the event, Mukherjee advised how connected vehicles can help to keep drivers calm and improve road safety.

“Many of our days are planned around dramatic traffic, which is a massive cause of stress,” he said. “Driving distraction can also occur from these traffic conditions – something that is very much valid in the Indian market,” he added.

Elevated stress levels can be linked to 80% of road incidents globally, and in order to alleviate this issue, Harman is developing technologies that can assist the driver’s decision-making process during a hazardous situation. “For example, we can alert the driver if he is driving in the middle of the road at an inappropriate speed or steering erratically,” he noted. “But the question is, how do we offer these features in a safe way?” he asked.

Mukherjee envisions a human-machine interface (HMI) system for the Indian market that ‘learns’ about the driver and can adjust the delivery of information according to his or her driving style. “A gadget should get better over time as it learns and help with our normal tasks,” he explained.

Such a system would also feature voice control, which reduces the amount of time a driver spends looking away from the road. But as Mukherjee pointed out, “Systems are usually not built for the way we speak – known as Indian English – so accents can be an issue for these systems. Our system lets the user record his own command in his own accent, lowering frustration caused by variation in HMI systems.”

What consumers want

Amit Jain, Visteon
Connected cars present a real opportunity, but may be some time coming, according to Amit Jain, Country Head, India, Visteon

Amit Jain, Country Head, India, Visteon, suggests there is a case for the government to mandate connectivity solutions as standard in new cars. “I think there are enough cases,” he said. “Being able to resolve chaotic driving situations, offering more security, or realising the dream of smart cities… There are many reasons – I can list 20 more.”

He added, “Connected cars do present a real opportunity,” but pointed out that such technology would leapfrog current standards. “Basic features like airbags and anti-lock brake systems (ABS) are not mandated here in India, and these features are critical to safety. So, when you don’t have these basic means in the car, a connected vehicle seems a long way away.”

As such, the chances of government regulation intervening to mandate the introduction of connectivity features in new cars is unlikely “in the short or medium term.”

Besides these challenges, the overruling factor is that consumers are not accustomed to the idea of a connected car. “Do they want this technology? Maybe not,” Jain said. “We need to come together and understand the most credible technologies for the Indian market. End consumers don’t really want technology, they want end use-cases, so it is important to develop systems that are relevant for these drivers.”

Freddie Holmes


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