A driverless car on Indian roads with all its potholes, stray cattle and random traffic movements may seem an impossible task. However, scientists and researchers at the Indian Institute of Science and IT major Wipro think otherwise! The two have joined hands for a project which aims at putting a driverless car on our roads as early as March 2020. The collaboration will take forward the ongoing three-year project at Wipro in which data from European and American roads was being analysed for the development of an autonomous vehicle. This has given birth to “a grounds-up autonomous vehicle”. However, the challenge that lies ahead in front of the scientists at IISc and engineers from Wipro, is to mould this into an autonomous car, while taking into consideration the haphazard driving conditions on Indian roads.
Dr Ramachandra Budihal, Wipro’s head for AI, autonomous systems and robotics told to The Indian Express that his team is working on “cutting edge” algorithms which are specific to Indian conditions. The data collected from Europe and America cannot be used in India because our roads have unique conditions. Prof A G Ramakrishnan from the department of electrical engineering at IISc, who is a key investigator in the project added that in US and Europe, the traffic is disciplined and people follow lanes. In India, you have all sort of hinderances, be it, people, cycle or auto-rickshaws, using the road in a completely unorganised manner. On top of that, our roads lack proper infrastructure and are riddled with potholes.
Budihal, who is based on the IISc campus with a team of 18 engineers from Wipro to build the car said that everything is being designed from scratch. They are not using an existing model and retrofitting it but developing their own electric vehicle and then planning to put all the systems inside. The combined manpower for this project stands at 200 which includes professors from six different IISc departments. In order to collect raw data, a car equipped with multiple sensors is being run on Bangaluru roads for the past six months. The team aims at putting 28 sensors on the autonomous car.
One of the challenges that lie in front of the team is the amount of processing power that is needed in order to process the data coming from the road, which is again, enormous in comparison to other environments. The number of changes and events happening per second is qute high on Indian roads conditions. The team cannot afford to put in a high power computing system as it will draw more power from the storage system on the electric vehicle than it is needed to run the vehicle itself. For this, the team has decided to use Neuromorphic computer chips which mimic the neural processing of the brain and consume less power.