While automakers and technology giants have been testing their self-driving across the globe, we’ve had just one question. When will they bring their technology to India? Well, now it seems that the change could happen sooner than expected due to the amendments proposed in the Motor Vehicle Act.
These amendments, top ministry officials say, will empower the government to grant automakers permission to test their self-driving vehicles on Indian roads. And the invitation would not only be open to those already conducting their self-driving tests but is expected to also encourage Indian automakers to participate in this mobility revolution. They could also go head-to-head with global giants like Uber, Google, NuTonomy or even Tesla for that case.
The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act were first introduced in Parliament in August last year. The bill (amendment) has attracted praise for being focused on the safety of travellers and levying hefty penalties on defaulters. But the highlight of the same would have to be its openness towards the ongoing innovation in autonomous mobility solutions.
As for amendments that enable the government to conduct autonomous vehicular trials, the clause reads,
In order to promote innovation and research and development in the fields of vehicular engineering, mechanically propelled vehicles and transportation in general, the central government may exempt certain types of mechanically propelled vehicles from the application of the provisions of this Act.
Still, it wouldn’t be particularly easy for companies to conduct their trials in the country. They would surely have to jump through a series of regulatory hoops to gain permission from the transport department of the union roads ministry to begin their trials. And this, the Government believes will help them break ground and improve upon the infrastructure in the coming years.
Also, conducting their self-driving vehicle tests on crowded and traffic-plagued Indian roads would enable them to better analyse and optimise their software as well as hardware solutions. It could be the perfect testing playground for deploying autonomous vehicles to developing countries, like ours.
Major technology behemoths are already working (and fighting) on making their ubiquitous by testing their solutions on-road in the United States. Some players, like NuTonomy, were the first to launch public self-driving tests on the roads of Singapore.
Also, be assured of the development in the Indian transportation ecosystem as Tata Elxsi has already announced its plans to begin testing its own self-driving vehicles in Bengaluru soon enough. It has fixed two sedans with their custom-built sensor and LiDAR kit to conduct tests inside their facilities.