This Man Invested 9 Years To Develop Tech To Bring Driverless Vehicles To India

Sanjeev Sharma's technology does not rely on expensive lidars or radars for its functioning.

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Autonomous cars are too much to wish for in India, given the present poor infrastructure of roads here. But, the scenario is completely different in other countries where roads are negotiable and ready for an advanced ride in mechanized cars.

Sanjeev Sharma

Companies are keen to test their technological marvels in most of the countries across the world, except India. These countries are rolling out self-driving cars, providing conducive atmospheres for business to automobile manufacturing giants, which are making best use of advanced technology to capture the growing markets there.

Sanjeev Sharma, an IIT-Roorkee alumnus and the Founder of Swaayatt Robots, is to some extent convinced that driverless cars need a completely different technology to operate in India.

Swaayatt Robots is a start-up solely run by Sharma. It develops self-driving technology best suited for Indian roads and can deal with the traffic conditions here. It is still a bootstrapped company.

Are Indian Highways Ready For Self-driving Cars?

What distinguishes this start-up from other companies in the sector is its technology that doesn't rely on expensive lidars or radars for its functioning, he said.

The vehicle perceives its surroundings using off-the-shelf cameras. The technology has been used in cars, trucks and can be used as an Advanced Driver Assistance System in India.

"I have been working on this since 2009. It's not just Indian highways but also cities here are ready for autonomous cars, but only after they are aided by suitable technology. It may take time to develop, but it is very much within our approach," he explained

His aim is to use his technology in defense applications to save lives of soldiers.

A Long Journey

In January 2009, Sharma learnt about the DARPA Grand Challenge and since then he has been working to develop robotic vehicles, making it one of the most important missions of his life.

It is a prize competition for American autonomous vehicles, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the most prominent research organization of the United States Department of Defense.

Talking about his journey that started with the setting up of Swaayatt Robots, he said, "I studied advanced books and numerous research papers on machine learning, mathematical optimization when I was doing my graduations to gain the required knowledge and build robotic systems."

Motion planning and artificial intelligence had become his core research areas since 2009.

"I started taking up projects to create motion planners that help in navigation in Indian traffic, when I was in the third year. Those algorithms are now playing a key role in the self-driving technology that I am trying to build now. After coming back to India in September 2014, I decided to finally convert my dream into a reality," he added.

Traffic And Road Conditions Make Self-Driving Hard In India

Tata Elxsi, a Tata group company is the first Indian company to begin testing its own self-driving system on Bengaluru roads. But, Sharma said Indian roads and traffic would make self-driving hard in India unless technology was exclusively developed for the country and its roads.

"A completely new set of algorithms and intelligent modules have to be developed to specifically handle Indian situation and its chaotic traffic," he insisted.

In the same breath he sounded optimistic about the future of self-driving cars in the automobile industry.

"Every automobile company will have inbuilt self-driving feature in its vehicles in future. Firms will either collaborate with companies providing the technology or will start their own research into creating one, like Mercedes," he added.