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In the fast lane – Autonomous driving technology

The current trends in the global automotive market are defined as CASE – Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric. In this article, we dive into the autonomy aspect of the industry.

All vehicles do not have the same level of autonomous features or driverless tech, which may help the car to drive on its own. They are classified based on the level of autonomy determined by the ability of the vehicle to drive without requiring driver supervision in certain circumstances. These levels range from Level 0 to Level 5.

Source: Bloomberg

  • Level 0 vehicles do not possess any driving automation and require continuous driver involvement for all manoeuvres. Level 1 vehicles feature systems that aid in acceleration, braking or steering through adaptive cruise control or lane-keeping assistance. These functions, operating individually, do not meet the criteria for autonomous technology.
  • Globally, automakers and technology companies, including Google parent Alphabet’s Waymo, Tesla and Baidu, have been investing heavily in autonomous driving. In 2014, Tesla introduced its initial Autopilot version, which later evolved to include autonomous steering, braking, speed adjustment, and parking capabilities. Tesla’s Autopilot is categorized as Level 2 driving automation technology, and the drivers must have their hands on the steering wheel at all times. BMW Highway Assistant offers an SAE Level 2 partially automated driving function in the new BMW 5 Series models.
  • At Level 3 of automation, the system monitors the driving environment and takes over driving operations under certain conditions. When any operable driving environment conditions become unsatisfactory, the system will issue a warning, and the driver must take over driving immediately. In Nov 2020, Honda received Level 3 designation from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism for its Traffic Jam Pilot function. It launched the Legend sedan with the technology in 2021, limiting production to 100 units.

Mercedes-Benz SAE Level 3 system DRIVE PILOT has been available as an option for the S-Class and EQS in Germany since May 2022. The company aims to make DRIVE PILOT available in the US market for the model year 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedan models.

In 2024, BMW will also start to offer its Level 3 autonomous system Personal Pilot L3 as an option in the new BMW 7 Series in Germany, enabling the driver’s hands off the steering wheel and switch to
other secondary in-vehicle activities while travelling up to 60 km/h (37 mph).

  • Advancing to Level 4, autonomous vehicle systems take full responsibility for all driving and navigational tasks. No driver attention is required within the defined operational domain. Level 4 automation systems are typically restricted to designated service areas and cannot operate beyond those areas of operation or in adverse weather conditions. Level 4 automation systems are best suited for applications such as driverless taxis and buses following pre-mapped routes, vehicles handling goods transportation within specified boundaries, and shuttle services.

In China, Baidu has been developing autonomous driving technology since 2013 and has accumulated over 50 million km of testing on Level 4 autonomous driving. Apollo Go, its autonomous ride-hailing service, provided 8,21,000 rides between July 2023 and September 2023. As of Sep 30, 2023, the cumulative rides provided to the public by Apollo Go reached 4.1 million. In Aug 2023, Baidu also launched driverless airport transportation services in Wuhan.

Waymo’s autonomous ride-hailing service with level 4 autonomy, Waymo One with electric Jaguar IPACE, is already available on surface streets in the Metro Phoenix area and San Francisco in the USA, and it will be launched soon in LA and Austin. Between Jan 2023 and November 2023, Waymo served over 700,000 ride-hailing trips with public riders and no human driver.

One of the main aspirations behind autonomous driving is safety. Over the 7.1 million miles Waymo drove, there were an estimated 17 fewer injuries and 20 fewer police-reported crashes compared to if human drivers with the benchmark crash rate would have driven the same distance in these areas of operation. Waymo will soon start testing its autonomous passenger cars without a human driver on freeways in Phoenix. Waymo is also working with Stellantis on the development and testing of L4 autonomous light commercial vehicles.

Designated 225 square miles of Metro Phoenix, where Waymo currently operates its autonomous ride-hailing service.

Waymo also operates in all of San Franciso as mapped.

  • Level 5 signifies the pinnacle of autonomous driving, where vehicles take complete control over all driving and navigational tasks under all conditions. Passengers are free to input a destination and engage in activities like work, sleep, watching movies, or playing games. The vehicle does not require a steering wheel or acceleration/brake controls. A human driver is no longer required, and all occupants are passengers.

Market intelligence and Analytics company CRISIL released a report on ADAS in the Indian market and pointed out that ADAS-equipped passenger vehicles accounted for approximately 2% of total passenger vehicle sales in India as of FY 22-23. Automation technology levels, L1 and L2, are gaining traction in India, particularly in premium SUV and sedan segments that constitute about one-fourth of total passenger vehicle sales. Meanwhile, minimal adoption is observed in the hatchback segment, where the automation level remains at L0.

As per CRISIL’s assessment, Mahindra is leading the pack in terms of market share with its XUV 7OO model at 40-50%, followed by Morris Garages with its four models (Astor, Hector, ZS EV, and Gloster) at 20-30%, and Honda at the third spot with its Honda City model at 10-20%. Tata Motors, Hyundai, and Toyota made up the balance in the total ADAS-enabled PV sales for fiscal 2023.

  • The premium SUV segment, featuring models such as Mahindra XUV700, MG Hector, Tata Harrier, and Tata Safari, constitutes two-thirds of total ADAS passenger vehicle sales.
  • This is followed by the entry-level SUV segment featuring MG Astor.
  • Then comes the midsize sedan segment – Honda City and Hyundai Verna being notable models.

The above three segments formed over 90% of ADAS PV sales in India for FY22-23.

Future Outlook

CRISIL estimates India’s domestic market for passenger vehicles with ADAS will surpass $1 billion by fiscal year 2028. The report projects that by fiscal 2028, the mid-size and utility vehicle segments will see the highest ADAS penetration, reaching 15-20% and 10-15%, respectively. Similarly, the compact utility vehicle and hatchback/small cars segment are anticipated to experience increased ADAS penetration, with projections ranging from 6-10% and 4-6%, respectively, by fiscal year 2028.

The distribution of total passenger vehicle sales with ADAS features is expected to be dominated by utility vehicles at 55-60%, followed by compact utility vehicles at 20-25%, midsize at 10-15%, and hatchbacks/small cars at 3-7%.

Blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, and driver fatigue detection are the most useful Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) Level 1 and Level 2 features for safety and convenience in Indian driving conditions. However, many drivers have complained that emergency braking does not seem to be tailored to Indian driving conditions and leads to unnecessary frequent braking. To address this, automation solutions need to be created by training models on the same conditions of Indian driving and road conditions. In addition to safety, the autonomy solutions also need to be cost-effective compared to current Level 3 solutions in the West for better uptake.

In the last couple of years, a few new technology players have started showcasing their work on indigenous ADAS technology solutions. We look forward to seeing more updates on their market readiness and regulatory status in the coming months.

Swaayatt Robots – In October 2023, Bhopal-based Swaayatt Robots demonstrated autonomous driving at high speeds on a single-lane road with bidirectional traffic negotiation. In Dec 2023, the Swaayatt demonstrated Level 5 autonomous driving capability, where its vehicle learned to negotiate complex traffic dynamics at a toll plaza and cross highly unstructured toll gates. The company aims to showcase an end-to-end negotiation of the day-time traffic in Feb 2024.

Minus Zero – Founded in 2021, Minus Zero showcased its autonomous vehicle, zPod, in 2023, which operates without LiDARs. The start-up is collaborating with automotive industry stakeholders, targeting autonomy levels 4 and 5.

There are also companies that are focused on implementing AI in commercial vehicles to enhance their safety and efficiency. For instance, Netradyne is using a vision system-led passive ADAS to make commercial fleet operations safer, while Flux Auto is developing autonomous driving kits specifically for commercial vehicles.

For another use case, Ati Motors has developed autonomous electric vehicles for material movement in industrial environments such as factories and warehouses, both indoors and outdoors. Some of its key customers include Bosch, TVS Motors, CEAT, and Hyundai in India and the US. Bullwork Mobility is developing autonomous sprayers for agricultural usage. We are excited to see more autonomous technology being introduced in the Indian market, not only for PVs but for other vehicle categories and use cases as well.

This article was first published in EVreporter Feb 2024 magazine.

Also read: Navigating disruptive technology trends in the automotive industry

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