In India, the implementation of autonomous driving technology will encounter considerable obstacles that are unique compared to other developed countries. This is primarily due to the inadequate road infrastructure, which lacks standardized signage and lane markings. Additionally, the behaviour of drivers in India poses further challenges to the successful adoption of this technology.
India’s Road Transport and Highways Minister, Nitin Gadkari, recently declared the government’s stance against allowing driverless cars in the country, emphasizing the potential job losses for drivers. Gadkari’s remarks are significant in the context of the growing global interest in self-driving technology.
Self-driving, or autonomous, cars are equipped with advanced technologies like sensors, cameras, radars, and artificial intelligence, enabling them to operate without human drivers. Major global players in the automotive and technology sectors, including Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, Apple, Google, Uber, and Mobileye, are heavily investing in this area. Although the technology is in its nascent stage, it promises future benefits like reduced road accidents, traffic congestion, and transportation costs.
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The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in the US has categorized autonomous driving into six levels, from Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (full automation without a driver). However, in India, the challenges for implementing autonomous driving are considerable due to subpar road conditions, lack of standardized road signs and lane markings, and unpredictable driving behaviours.
Some car manufacturers in India, like Hyundai, M&M, Honda, MG, and BYD, are already offering autonomous driver assistance systems (ADAS), which provide basic autonomous features like emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, classified as Level 1-2 autonomy.
Despite the potential advantages touted by global companies, India’s road safety record remains a concern. In 2022, the country reported over 461,000 road accidents, resulting in approximately 168,500 fatalities. Gadkari has previously mentioned the government’s goal to reduce the number of road accidents by half by 2030, highlighting the urgent need for improved road safety measures.