With the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) and approximately 6.5 billon connected devices predicted by 2016, we will see a lot of technology-driven advances. Intelligent machines, mostly driven by Electronic Control Units (ECUs), will drive this innovation. Talking about the auto industry in particular, digital electronics are now the driving force behind 80 per cent of all innovations. Key functions are already controlled by ECUs such as engine management, infotainment/navigation systems, ABS, ESP, Park Assist and so on.
Factors that contribute to opportunities for India are: firstly, Asia seeing a higher growth rate compared to mature markets in Automotive Electronics. There are a lot of reengineering activities taking place in India. Being a significant market, engineers in India have the opportunity to be noticed on a global platform. Their products have the potential to impact global markets.
The second factor is the availability of choice for the Indian consumer. As the cost of ECUs are driven down, the consumer in India can afford more electronic features in their cars at the same price point. Indian engineers have the opportunity to design features to address specific needs of the local market.
As India’s road infrastructure develops, three automotive trends that are on the upward curve in Europe that will possibly trend in India in a few years are: Green Wave, Platoon Automobiles and the Self-driving Car. All of these trends are anchored by ECUs.
The Green Wave is a controlled activity in which a series of traffic lights (usually three or more) are coordinated to allow continuous traffic flow over several intersections in one direction.
Any vehicle travelling along with the green wave (at a specified speed) will see a progressive cascade of green lights, and will not have to stop at every intersection. This allows higher traffic loads, and reduces noise and energy use (because less acceleration and braking is needed).
Grouping vehicles into platoons is a method of increasing the capacity of roads. Platoons decrease the distance between cars using electronic, and possibly mechanical, coupling. This capability would allow many cars to accelerate or brake simultaneously. Instead of waiting after a traffic light changes to green for drivers ahead to react, a synchronised platoon would move as one, allowing up to a five-fold increase in traffic throughput if spacing is diminished that much. This system also allows for closer headway between vehicles by eliminating reacting distance needed for human reaction.
An autonomous car, also known as a driverless or robotic car is a vehicle capable of fulfilling the human input capabilities of a car. It is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Demo robotic cars already exist and will be a reality in 10 years for series introduction.
Electronics will only increase in the car, thereby increasing the intelligence quotient of the car. The car will become an active, transmitting and receiving node of information and data. Standardisation and data security will be the new challenges. Collaboration between the original equipment manufacturer, suppliers, government and consumers will be the order of the day to speed up introduction of highly innovative solutions in the market. Autonomous driving will be the new reality. This is applicable globally, and to India too, but with local customisations. All of this will be driven by technology — the electronics in the automobile. This is where an enormous opportunity presents itself to the Indian engineer.
(The author is Senior Vice-President, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Ltd.)