Indian roads will soon witness driverless cars plying on them because of the proposed amendments to the motor vehicles law. This will enable government to permit testing of such vehicles. This is an arena where Google, Tesla, and Uber have shown promise in the recent years. With this move, Indian carmakers would be able to align themselves with the global race encompassing the development of self-driving cars. Tata Group’s design and technology firm, Tata Elxsi has been planning to test driverless cars for some time.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 had grabbed headlines for its focus on safety and hefty penalties for traffic violations. The new provision is a part of the same bill. A clause in the amendment 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.”
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The bill was introduced in the Parliament in August, earlier year. It has since been referred to a parliamentary standing committee. However, the transport department of the union roads ministry must permit conducting such tests. Once the law is cleared, India would harbor the capabilities to test any innovation across the transport industry, such as semi autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles, both passenger and commercial. Moreover, because of this bill, government will allow testing of these vehicles on a case-by-case basis.
India is currently in the stages where the country must make the conditions conducive for driving autonomous vehicles on Indian streets. “Semi-autonomous or autonomous technology can find applications in limited scale across the farm sector, on fixed routes in the public transportation space. For the future, there will be no regulatory hurdles in those instances,” comments Abdul Majeed, Partner, PwC.
Driverless cars are already being tested on city roads across the world, where carmakers and technology companies such as Tesla Motors, China’s Baidu, Google, Uber, Mercedes, Ford, and General Motors are leading this new phase of transformation. Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk has pledged to deliver a vehicle that will drive itself from Los Angeles to New York by the end of 2017. Volvo has also formed a partnership with Uber to test the driverless XC90s for ride-sharing purposes. Last year, we witnessed Uber testing its first fleet of driverless Volvo XC90s fitted with Uber software.
Besides the partnership with Uber, Volvo is also preparing to launch its Drive Me programme. The programme aims at testing 100 driverless cars in Gothenburg by the end of 2017. Uber also had its own plans of running a pilot in California, however, the registration of Uber’s 16 autonomous vehicles was revoked by the department of motor vehicles. The reason behind this was the company’s alleged refusal to apply for appropriate permits.