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How Is Tech Empowering the Auto Industry? The current transformation triggered by extensive technology development also has its set of challenges; experts decode the opportunities and impediments facing the auto industry

By Shrabona Ghosh

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The present-day automotive industry is affected by innovative ideas and is ready to transform and evolve rapidly. Automobiles are no more just about engines! "Now, it's all about connected features, softwares; more than 50 per cent of the decisions in the automotive industry are based on these features. There's a lot going on in terms of the connected features; the industry is now talking about software in different ways and that's the biggest challenge for the automotive industry as a whole," said Prashanth Doreswamy, president & CEO, Continental India.

The industry is catching up to electrification, "When we talk about electric vehicles, it is 40 per cent electrification and 60 per cent software!," he added.

Incorporating tech not only transforms manufacturing but also customer experiences. So, how is the infusion of tech going to progress over time? The automotive world is experiencing the most substantial change since Henry Ford industrialized manufacturing a century ago. It's important that the current transformation is triggered not only by extensive technology development but also by social demand. "The chip to Cloud architecture at Mercedez is dedicated to bridging the layering between software and hardware, from manufacturing to production to customer centricity, softwares are an integral part of they automotive system now," said Balaji Sethuraman, Vice President, R&D & a member of senior leadership team at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India.

Traditionally Indian companies have been focused on validation and testing of automotive software, but with CASE taking center stage in the Indian context, the sector is evolving and so is the role of Indian companies. Current ecological, social, and technological trends are encouraging automotive manufacturers to offer consumers much more than just a metal box. "The quantum of work needed for bringing the change is already happening in India, the demographic dividend in terms of talent and engineering is at a higher level and the shift is evident," said Nitin Pai, chief marketing officer & chief strategy officer, Tata Elxsi. Looking back 10 -15 years as long as cars were just a means of utility and electronics & softwares were not the dominant driver of experience, India was just another player in the evolving ecosystem. "As cars moved from a means of mobility to an experience by itself, which was then enabled by electronics and software, the role of skills and scale increased and that is where India has a unique position," Pai added.

The total size of the automotive industry globally is about 2.75 trillion and that's projected to go up to 5.4 trillion by 2030. "In the 2.5 trillion, the software portion is only just 300 billion today and that could go up to 1.5 trillion. Besides, software as a service could go up to 300 billion, so that's 1.8 trillion worth of software which is waiting for the next five, six years. There is a huge opportunity in the sector," explained the president & CEO, Continental India.

When we speak about tech in cars, ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) has been there since a while. It has been introduced in many cars in India, not just the expensive luxury marques, but also relatively affordable cars.It includes features such as collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, smart pilot assist, traffic sign recognition and high beam assist among others. "In terms of ADAS, the difficulty is not in implementing technology, the difficulty is in assuring that your technology will work with existing rules or the infrastructure. ADAS is difficult in India simply because you expect that infrastructure and the environment supports you as much as the technology inside the car; we need India specific features to make it applicable here," Pai explained.

Automotive OEMs and suppliers are putting a lot of effort into creating a comprehensive ADAS technology platform built on a combination of features and capabilities from various platforms. The increasing architectural complexity and computational requirements will necessitate solutions that appropriately balance performance and cost-effectiveness. High-performance, accurate sensors are required, as is a reliable, accurate model of the vehicle's surroundings. Cameras, radar sensors, and infrared sensors will aid in the realization of Autonomous Driving.

"In terms of ADAS, while sitting in an autonomous car, communication to the external world is very important. The system also needs a regulatory aspect where all the participants of the whole industry have to come together to develop a framework to support such a technology," added Balaji Sethuraman.

Earlier, auto giants were largely focused on enhancing manufacturing to become more efficient at scale, the future is about redefining the role of the vehicle – its about building and susutaining computer on wheels.

(They were speaking at Entrepreneur India's Tech and Innovation Show)

Shrabona Ghosh

Correspondent

A journalist with a cosmopolitan mindset. I lead a project called 'Corporate Innovations' wherein I cover corporates across verticals and try to tell stories on innovations. Apart from this, I write industry pieces on FMCGs, auto, aviation, 5G and defense. 
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