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If you were ever a fan of ‘Knightrider’, you must have dreamed of cruising through the streets while ‘Kit’, the car’s AI drove. Then Elon Musk came along and those cars are now a reality. The auto industry continues to wow its consumers with smarter and smarter cars. From the time the term ‘automatic’ meant a gearless car, it has moved on to ‘autonomous’. Cars that self-drive without any human intervention are moving towards the mainstream market. To make this happen, many auto giants as well as startups are reaping the benefits of AI.

While AI permeates every aspect of the markets, whether its machine learning, big data, smart devices, robotics, or blockchain, the auto industry isn’t far behind in making use of it efficiently. Self-driven cars could eliminate the dangers of accidents not to mention regular traffic jams. AI could organise entire transport systems.

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For example, a feature called ‘park-assist’ automatically steers the car into the exact parking spot. There is also a feature that helps the driver see cars in blind spots, while lane changing. A driver can receive warning of high-speed vehicles approaching from behind with the rear collision warning system. Not only are these systems available for the driver’s ease of driving, but the information from these features is gathered on computers in-built in the cars. These computers only advise an action to the driver after they come to a logical conclusion based on feedback from several sensors and cameras.

Indian companies are not really known to be at the forefront of the self-driven car sector, not practically speaking, but that might be changing faster than you think. Some quasi-driverless models have begun to make entrances, with features that provide safer rides for passengers.

Tata Motors partnered with Microsoft in 2017, to boost Tata’s cars with advanced digital features, such as an advanced navigation system, intelligent monitoring of features, and over-the-air updates. Tata plans to seamlessly connect their cars with smart phones, with a platform driven by Microsoft Azure cloud. These cars will boast of features like advanced analytics, machine learning, internet of things, and AI.

Microsoft themselves has been doing some work on connected cars, which are capable of collecting and transferring data through cellular networks. On their Development Blog, authors Omri Mendels, Guy Bertental and Tamir Kamara outline how the software giant has partnered with Pointer Telocation, a global car telemetry device provider, with the aim to form an automated driver safety estimation solution.

To boost adoption of this technology in the mainstream auto market, manufacturers and third parties, such as insurance companies, still face challenges, which include accurate estimation of driver safety, evaluating the eco-friendliness of different vehicles and driving styles, and checking driver behavior in order to allow for insurance policies that are more personalized, and improved fleet management.

For all these challenges, Microsoft has come up with using an unsupervised machine learning approach to estimate driver safety by comparing each driver’s behavior to the behavior of the general population.

Many enthusiastic Indian startups have also been contributing to this segment. After Kolkata-based Fisheyebox came up with India’s first autonomous car, Suzuki Celerio in 2017, India’s self-driven car market has moved forward. Bengaluru-based Fluxauto develops modular self-driving technology for transforming normal trucks into a driverless trucks.

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Gurgaon-based Hi Tech Robotic Systemz has come up with Novus-Drive, a self-driven electric vehicle, which allows passengers to set destination on the map, verify details of the destination drop off location, apply a snooze button for stopping the vehicle, with cloud-based intelligence for a fleet management system and audio/visual emergency alerts.

Apart from these, other startups in the autonomous car segment are A TImotors, Netradyne, Swaayatt Robots, Auro Robotics, OmniPresent Robot, and SeDriCa 1.0 from IIT Bombay.


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