Companies are devoting significant resources into making fully autonomous cars a reality in the coming years, but those cars need supporting infrastructure that’s lacking in many parts of India and other developing nations, as discussed in a piece by Bloomberg.
The development and deployment of these vehicles could remain confined to more developed economies, which will also play a role in shaping the types of vehicles that are built to take advantage of this technology.
Prevailing fully autonomous car models use a combination of maps, detection systems like radar or LiDAR, and cameras to let the computer system know where the car is. One issue with this method, though, is that it relies upon infrastructure including road signs, marked lanes, and paved roads, as well as general compliance with posted signs and other rules of the road. These things though, as Bloomberg notes, are generally absent or unreliable in India and other parts of the developing world, making the task of companies like the Tata Group and the Mahindra Group, which are looking to build autonomous cars for India, far more difficult.
Western firms have a technological and infrastructural advantage in developing autonomous cars and bringing them to market. While this is not surprising, there are a few major market and design implications for the self-driving car space:
- Systems will be designed with Western roads and markets in mind. This means that cars’ autonomous driving platforms will rely upon posted signage that’s placed at expected heights, and be trained to look for those signs where they are typically placed on those roads. They will also look for paved roads and lane dividers to aid in navigation, which means the systems might only work properly in certain conditions and could need modification to expand to new areas.
- The types of vehicles built with full autonomy will be made to fit on American and other Western roads. Cars, especially in the US, tend to be larger than in many other parts of the world — trucks, minivans, and SUVs make up 62% of US auto sales so far in 2017 — but these vehicles would be out of place of roads in countries like India. In contrast, the Maruti Alto, the top-selling vehicle in India, is much smaller and would not be well received by American passengers.
- The crowded nature of Indian roads could also require additional computing power. Autonomous cars need to identify any object around them in order to navigate the roads, and the more objects there are, the more computational power the system needs. This could make the systems more expensive and further forestall adoption in markets where Western cars are already much more costly than the competition.
- Sizes the current and future self-driving car market, forecasting shipments and projecting installed base.
- Explains the current state of technology, regulation, and consumer perception.
- Analyzes how the development of autonomous cars will impact employment and the economy.
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