Here’s the latest from the Indian automotive segment

In order to decrease the number of accidents or at least to minimize the impact, today’s vehicles are equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The functionality and design of these systems is purely dependent on research related to the driving concerns in respective countries. ADAS has been successful in countries having more disciplined driving culture. However, with the rapid motorization in developing countries such as India, there is an increasing need to investigate how these systems should be designed for new and growing markets. Market like India having altogether different driving habits than those of developed countries will pose a challenge to the ADAS designers. In order to address the need, a detailed research is required to discover the most common traffic issues facing Indian drivers, how those issues differ from drivers in countries with better developed driving culture (like Western Europe), and how these differences will mandate redesign or re-tuning of ADAS available in the present form.

A study was conducted aimed at difficulties faced by Indian drivers and implementation of ADAS for Indian Automotive market. It was clearly evident that though European and Indian traffic rules and regulations are mostly similar, but driver behavior is highly culturally mediated. Results also indicate that the type of assistance drivers need in different traffic situations depends a great deal on driver behavior. The observed differences between two cultures suggest that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems designed for roads in Europe may not necessarily be optimal in other markets.

ADAS refers to the latest generation of systems supporting the driver in the driving task and including a range of functions: Driver assistance systems may be designed

  • Simply to inform the driver,
  • To warn or provide recommendations in critical situations,
  • To allow the driver to delegate tasks to the vehicle.

ADAS are multiple systems to help the driver in the driving process. When designed with a safe Human-Machine Interface, it should increase car safety and more generally the road safety.

The new concept for implementing the customer requirement based ADAS is, where a real intelligent vehicle is operated in a virtual environment. This is suitable for various types of ADASs: Adaptive Cruise Control, Stop & Go, Forward Collision Warning, Pre-crash Systems, Blind Spot Systems, and Fully Autonomous Vehicles. Considering the scenario of today’s traffic situations in India, Automatic Emergency Braking System is the most useful and suitable for Indian customers as well as OEM. As almost all the Indian cars having ABS nowadays, hence the basic version of ADAS for braking system using existing systems like parking sensor cameras and bumper sensors with front and rear view cameras or radar sensors can be suitable for Indian cars.

A survey was conducted based on daily traffic problems faced by drivers and what kind of ADASs they would like to have in their vehicle with 500 – 600 participants in India. The participants of different age groups included private car owners, taxi drivers, and car salespersons. A detailed questionnaire was shared with individual to respond. The questionnaire was based on the Manchester Driver Behavior Questionnaire (originally developed by Reason, Man stead, Straddling, Baxter, & Campbell, 1990) and contained questions about traffic problems. Participants were asked how often they face certain types of problem, and answered by choosing between the alternatives often, occasionally, and never. After the questionnaire was completed, follow-up questions were asked on those traffic problems in order to get a broader view of them. Finally, the participants were asked, based on the traffic problems encountered, to discuss each ADAS’s perceived usefulness.

The sample of questions asked in the survey to the respondents are as below,

  1. What kind of traffic problems encountered by the drivers every day?
  2. How important are the following to you when you consider a package of safety features for your vehicle?
  3. If you are making a decision to buy a new car, which safety features would you include?

From the survey it was derived that most common traffic problems faced by drivers were:

  • Illegal Overtaking
  • Blind Spots
  • Pedestrian not crossing the roads from the zebra crossing
  • Driver distractions like mobile & etc.

And, the systems like Anti-lock braking system and collision warning systems were highly preferred as a safety systems in the vehicle. It was found that the braking system of the vehicle is highly likely to be a very effective safety measure in terms of both casualty reduction and benefit to cost ratio in the relatively near future, provided that further technical development and cost reduction take place. The design and development of these systems, though, has concentrated on the needs of motorists in foreign markets as well as Indian market.

A question remains as to “What features will become generally accepted in the future?”, whether those currently available can offer similar benefits to drivers in other areas of the world. Automakers devote large funds to develop and promote safety features, which help differentiate their vehicles and can generate sales. Now that features such as seat-belts, airbags and crumple zones have become as common as cup holders, safety innovations are growing more complex. An example of this is the rapidly expanding category of safety features known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

The SMOG issue in Delhi gave golden chance to Environmentalist and National Green Tribunal (NGT) to take non-populous steps towards making Delhi’s air cleaner. While the action will certain reduce the severity of the situation but to the large extent they are not curative and probably not even measurable.

There is mixed reaction from the populace of Delhi, the 24×7 Media and the confused Industry about the odd-even rule and ban of diesel vehicles (with >2L Engine capacity). As mentioned by every expert/media, Power Plants, Automobiles, burning of Agriculture by products and Construction are the main culprits deteriorating air quality in the National Capital Region. Multiple studies have derived different sets of numbers towards contribution from sources mentioned above.

With an engineer who graduated from the esteemed IIT as its Chief Minister, the Aam Aadmi Party government decide to take on the technologically advanced culprit i.e. automotive, while the NGT took harsh step to ban the diesel vehicle with 2+ Litre engine capacity.

In terms of vehicle density per kilometer of constructed road, Delhi Ranks 5th in India (245 Vehicles/km). Delhi has 30000 kms of roads within its limits while remaining 4 cities road length when added is less than that of Delhi. But if we look at the road density Delhi is highest (2103 km/100 sq. km). This turn out to be whopping 515,235 vehicle/100 sq km.

As mentioned earlier, multiple studied have been conducted on the estimating the source of PM 2.5 composition. The conclusions are not cohesive and contribution to PM 2.5 from Automotive is 9% while roadside dust contributing highest i.e. 38%. In case of PM10 its 20% and 56% respectively. Thus, in our opinion road dust should be first thing to be looked at.

As an automotive industry professional, we will focus on the segment which we know a better than others (energy, agriculture and construction). Let’s look at what else could have been done in the automotive.

First and foremost it is (pollution from Automotive’s) not only an issue of number of vehicles (Delhi has 7.5 million vehicle while Mumbai has approximately 2.5 million). Its more on the quality of vehicle, roads, rules and the implementation of the regulations.

Let’s talk about active solutions

  • Vehicle heath monitoring

In-use vehicles monitoring is only limited to smoke and quality of the measurement is a serious concern. In most states, certificates are easily available without testing while in some states the corrupt certificate issuers do not even need the vehicle to be physically present. While there is a process of vehicle health monitoring or physical validation for commercial vehicles at certain intervals, there is no procedure for health monitoring for private passenger vehicles (Fitness certificate validity is 15 years). The strict enforcement of the health monitoring is essential. With new age IoT based solutions, simple low cost methods can be devised.

While there is limited testing of in-use public vehicles, I doubt there is a mechanism to monitor government vehicle fleet quality. In Pune, for example, city run buses are poorly maintained and often breakdown on the roads.

  • Road Quality

Government is giving incentive on manufacturing and buying vehicles while it is failing to keep pace in building roads. Quality of the roads is also a serious concern, barring few roads in India most of the roads are built unscientifically and poorly maintained. The quality of road is seriously restricting the average speed on the road, resulting in more idling (chances of increase in PM more). The roads also deteriorate rapidly and lead to creation of debris that adds to the total pollution. Cement roads are repaired with asphalt which wears off very quickly. Poor quality roads are also detrimental to the vehicle health and the vehicle owners find it difficult to maintain vehicle with repeated failures due to poor roads.

As we discussed earlier, automotive contribution is significant to PM2.5 still most of the studied conclude that for PM 2.5 dust on the road is most prominent reason. Major roads like highways in NCR are clean but remaining are in poor shape and dusty. There is definite scope to reduce PM 2.5 by maintaining road cleanliness.

  • Rule and Adherence

How many of us obey traffic rules? By not obeying rules traffic management is becoming nightmare for authorities. Why can’t we wait on the signal for our turn or obey the lane discipline or one-ways in the city.

While I say road users are not following rule, the city councils and traffic police are equally responsible for this. Most of the cases the sign boards, Zebra lines are missing or confusing. If the signals are installed with timers (in working conditions), the unnecessary accelerations, honking can be reduced to great extent. While traffic police seems to be looking at catching the signal breaker than stopping him/her at the right spot. Mere obeying of rules or a stricter enforcement can reduce emissions at least by 10%.

  • 3W and 2W – Contribution

Contribution from the 2W and 3W segment is again considerably large and often not considered while restricting emissions. 3 Wheelers are found to be using poor quality fuels like kerosene. Though the emissions from these vehicles individually less but if we add the numbers for the total 2W and 3W then it will be definitely significant. It is widely stated by 2W manufacturers that the emission norms for that segment are the most stringent in the world, but then they also need to consider how big the market size is in India compared to anywhere else int he world. What we need, as we say again, is strict enforcement of vehicle health monitoring.

Only time will decide the fate of this odd-even rule, but for the folks who wanted quick fixes, these may not be enough. A comprehensive vehicle health monitoring system integrated with the traffic management system is an ideal solution and well, the technology exists – for the implementation the government, industry and the populace should come together. We look forward to be a part of such endeavours, though reactive.

Numbers don’t lie and the Indian consumer is no longer ready to be taken for a ‘ride’. The vast choice and the increased variety of cars in the market has really made the consumer the KING. From the top-sellers and fuel-efficient cars from Maruti Suzuki to the top of the class European brands – everything awaits the consumer.

The choice and variety can truly be over-whelming for the Generation X, the middle aged Indians who in their hey-days could only choose from a handful of models – the Ambassadors, the Premier Padmini and the Maruti 800. The folks who wanted to stand-out bought the Contessa or 118 NE. Unlike, the choice to the Indian voter, there was no “None of the Above” option.
Now, there are probably a bit more than 20 manufacturers in the market with close to around 150 models and around 1000+ variants. The consumer is ‘smart’ and given the realization that he is the KING has surely made him ‘toss away’ the cars that do not appeal. At the same time, the consumer has an ego, an ego that remained suppressed through his childhood where-in he only state-of-the-art cars only on the centerfolds of magazines or being driven by the ‘filthy rich’. So much to say, owning the ‘cheapest car’ did not appeal to him.
Discussion related to cars is in terms of ice-breakers only second to that about cellphones. It even surpasses cricket. So price, features, quality, serviceability – everything and anything is a talking point. Such plain talk is the influencing factor for the next purchase and unfortunately there’s not much of purchase happening. The growth in the Total Available Market that was used as an input for the huge investments Ford, Chevrolet, Renault, Nissan et al have made is no where visible.


The market has been ‘flat’ at best and most of these manufacturers are happy even with the gain of a few points in the market share. Yet, there’s no eating into the slices of Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai.

Thanks, however, to the huge drop in the market share of Tata Motors, most new entrants have still managed to stay happy and rise up.


The adjoining graphs show the shrinking size of the yellow slice of Tata Motors. From a sizable 14% in early 2012 to 6% in the closing months of 2013, Tata Motors is the only shrinking slice of the pie. In the people carrier, Sumo and Safari struggle against Mahindra’s Bolero and Scorpio, the lack of a solid challenge to the Toyota Innova clearly indicates a big miss in the strategy.

As for the personal use, the Nano hasn’t even sold 2000 numbers per month, while the Indica and Indigo haven’t been able to keep pace with the Generation Y and Z. The Ambassador and the Padmini never appealed to the Generation Y, similarly the Indica and Indigo models haven’t appealed to the Generation Z who though isn’t behind the wheels yet, but prescribes the purchase to his parents. Honda and Ford have taken bigger strides. The biggest segment the Indica and Indigo’s now cater to is the ‘small taxi’ and the ‘city cabs’.

As cheaper options in this category emerge from Chevrolet, Nissan and Renault, this remaining ‘lean’ portion of Tata Motors is also at risk.

What’s the solution you may ask ? – Clearly they have to improve and chase – either the fuel efficiency of a Maruti or the quality of Toyota or the reliability of a Mahindra but most importantly Tata Motors needs a visual overhaul and move over from the Nano, Indica and Indigo.

So today I was driving on the Pune – Mumbai expressway and to my surprise I saw the test runs of Bajaj Quadricycle RE60. The launch should not be far away (and I have not noticed if it has already happened).

Few years ago Bajaj made it to the news by saying that they will be working with Nissan (and Renault) to get the cheapest car on the roads – cheaper than the ‘Nano’. I am glad that they failed or discontinued their attempt because the folks behind Tata Motors had got the Market Strategy and positioning all wrong.
Tata Nano, simply failed, because of the following 2 elements:

1. Everyone who owns and Indica or Indigo or anyone who knows anyone who owns an Indica and Indigo, will never buy a Tata vehicle unless it completes 2 years in the market and the reports are good. And for Nano, the reports were never favorable.
2. 99% of India thinks of the car as a status symbol and any such individual would never like to possess the ‘cheapest car’. Infact, with Tata Nano entering the market as the cheapest car, the sales of Suzuki 800 and Alto increased because they were no longer regarded as the cheapest.

With regards to the RE60 Quadricycle from Bajaj, I have struggled with the market positioning of this car or vehicle or quadricycle (whatever, they want it to be called). It is not legally classified as a car and it cannot be sold to individuals. So, it is not competing with Tata Nano but it is competing with either the Tata ACE and likes, which given it’s size, I doubt it will be able to.
So, in a nutshell it is just a replacement for the normal 3-seater auto-rickshaw – a category that Bajaj already has a strong presence in.
Today, the car was out on the highway, for what appeared to be mileage tests, running at the regulated speed limit of 80 kmph. Their max. speed is anyway 90 kmph.
According to Bajaj, the RE60 will give three-wheeler users the safety of a fourth wheel. That’s not a bad thought – in-fact the Tata ACE Magic and the likes already have people carrier versions that have replaced the 6 and 9 seater auto rickshaws in the city suburbs and rural areas.
However, with two front-wheels and a steering wheel, if it is to replace the normal auto-rickshaw on the streets of the city, the maneuverability is the biggest element that will be compromised. In comparison with the normal auto-rickshaw the price will be at-least double and unless there is a Government mandate to add safety (as offered by a complete body) elements to the three-wheelers, I don’t see this segment moving upwards.
Had this product made it to the market before the Tata Ace and likes, it would have managed to create a segment, a share and would have been the most-selling USCV (Ultra Small Commercial Vehicles). However, it comes 10 years later than when it should have made it to the market. The story is very similar to that of Tata Nano – a ‘flop’ strategy and market placement – and
At the end of the day, we can praise frugal engineering as much as we want to. And our Prime Minister may continue selling these buzz words everywhere he goes. But, like Tata Nano, this product lacks common-sense engineering.
Frugal Engineering should never compromise Common-Sense Engineering. We need products that people need, and for that mis-match RE60 isn’t going to ink any success story.