Connected Vehicles – Unfolding Opportunities for All Geographies

The automotive industry has had a profound impact on us. It has altered the way we move, live and consume things. It has made significant contribution to the country’s economy as well. Historically it has contributed between 3 to 3.5% of GDP in the United States. The Indian automotive industry which is amongst the top five in the world had seen the growth of over 7% between FY2013-18.

The transition in automotive, which we all are aware of, is being powered by technologies such as a self-driving car, connected car, software controlled ECUs, automotive telematics, and others. Emergence and introduction of new and exciting concepts like artificial intelligence and big data analytics are leading us to experiences we have never earlier known. The changes that started around over two decades ago, with increased standardization, platform sharing, GNSS assisted navigation systems, emergency assistance/response system; are now making way for these newer technologies like automated driving, connected vehicle, AI-assisted systems etc. These technological advances in automobiles are making cars safer while also providing user conveniences. These new features are not merely being accepted, but expected by customers, further fuelling this transition.

Cellular Telecommunication

Connected Vehicle has been around us in various forms and flavors. Connectivity through wireless telecommunication(SIM/eSIM) either through TCUs (Telematics Control Units) or through mobile phone connected to the vehicle has been providing various benefits like access to real-time traffic, weather information and road conditions while keeping vehicle drivers aware of potential hazards they might face. Further, connected vehicles applications assist in parking alerts, unexpected roadside incidents like disabled vehicles, car crashes, among many others.

DSRC

The enabling of vehicles to talk to each other may be considered as a mark or new era. The “Dedicated Short Range Communication”, enabling vehicle to have high-speed communication amongst each other in the vicinity of 300 meters will help majorly in avoidance of collisions and road accidents. It is expected that policy-driven response in active system fitted in vehicles will lead to sanity on road(particularly in our context, where we tend to occupy the last inch on the road at broken traffic lights, which may put to shame some of the complicated jig-saw puzzles). The US Dept of Transportation connected vehicle programme is working with various state and local transport organizations, technology developers, solution providers, and the general public to test and evaluate the connected vehicle technology which will enable vehicles, infrastructure and other devices(like smartphones) to talk to one another.

Pushing Shared Mobility

 Its a common knowledge for the connected vehicle interest group that self-driving & connected vehicle in shared mobility will bring down the cost of mobility, besides providing convenient and safe mobility. Waymo is demonstrating this in the space of shared mobility services, with a business model where they have partnered with players from automotive manufacturing, repair & maintenance service provider, insurance company. In our context in India, we are seeing automotive majors like Mahindra and Tata Motors partner with shared mobility service providers like Ola and Uber.

Manufacturing to Services

A marked shift of approach recently came from an automotive manufacturer, where Mahindra announced that it would rent out vehicles, will have its foundation on fast and cost-effective maintenance; enabled through connected TCUs. These business models are indicative of many such options would be given to the public and enterprises in the coming years.

A need of Responsive Policy

Continuous update in policies and regulatory framework to accommodate and encourage research and test of new technologies is essential today. Policymakers will have to move from allowing only things which are done somewhere by somebody, to a new generation of policymaking based on thought-leadership. There are several players including startups working in connected vehicle and autonomous vehicles, but we do not have a framework to encourage these initiatives through regular policy update or coordinating body. We wish and hope the government will not be forced to take an approach(knowingly ignore violations of existing archaic policy) to connected vehicle few years down the road. It will only stifle our own capacity building and keep us in basic consumer mode.

The next-generation mobility will disrupt insurance, public transport, personal vehicle ownership, automobile manufacturer and many others. The government needs to look into it more realistically and come up with guidelines which can help the industry get maximum mileage in the present context. The “cost of opportunity” would be expensive as the segments which may lose out due to this, ranging from transport & logistics to software & IT. While it MAY be good to look around(abroad) for good case studies and examples to be followed, but nirvana is “within ourselves”, in our very own country, which one needs to see, spend time and deliberate along with the people concerned to come up with an inclusive policy. Though, the absence of a regulatory framework or uncertainty has been a part of the economic environment of free enterprise, where entrepreneurs and existing business seek opportunity, to begin with. But at a later stage it is the policies and regulatory framework which bring investments and fuel growth. Referring to the two developments which affect automotive in India- insurance discussion paper from IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) and MoRTH initiative of AIS 140 are steps in this directions. But it seems to have succumbed to the need to maintain status quo.

The Road Ahead

As we continue to move closer to connected vehicle, maybe the government can consider setting up a task force for the connected vehicle, with representatives from state transport corporations, PSUs, central government ministries and the industry. With the objective to provide recommendation for policy and infrastructure improvements. The government has rightly identified transport and logistics as one key enabler of an economy, as was evident in Move- Global Mobility Summit last month in New Delhi. Its now time to work on nuts and bolts to achieve this, and Connected Vehicle is an important horizontal enabler.

– Maneesh Prasad,
CEO & Editor, Telematics Wire