Autonomous car: Indian techie builds self-driving Tata Nano

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Mar 1, 2016, 4:47 pm IST
Updated Mar 1, 2016, 4:51 pm IST
John chose Tata Nano for the project, as it is one of the very few cars in India that has a rear-engine layout.
Dr Roshy John and his team of engineers. (Photo: Screen grab)
 Dr Roshy John and his team of engineers. (Photo: Screen grab)

Mumbai: An Indian techie from Kerala along with his team of engineers have managed to build an indigenous self-driving car in a period of just five years.

Dr Roshy John, Robotics and Cognitive Systems head, Tata Consultancy Services, has built an automated Tata Nano, which is also tuned to cope with the unique road predicaments in the country.

Interestingly, John got the idea of building a self-driving car after a taxi ride from the airport. While sitting in the cab, he saw the taxi driver falling asleep midway, which forced him to takeover the wheels. This inspired him to start off the autonomous vehicle project, as he was already developing robots for multiple industries.

He pointed out that the traffic and roads in India still continue to lag behind other developed countries in the world. Apart from that, the never-ending constructions and road development projects also proved to be major snags.

After inspecting a slew of cars, John chose Tata Nano for the project, as it is one of the very few cars in India that has a rear-engine layout, and allowed him to fit numerous sensors on the vehicle’s front-end with no space constraints.  

John and his team started off the project by creating a complete simulation of the vehicle to check out if the project was feasible. After the virtual testing was completed, they mounted cameras on real vehicles and drove around the city to fine tune the algorithms for real time performance.

He finally bought a brand new Tata Nano, which was totally modified to accommodate sensors, cameras, and actuators in the car. This was done to completely replicate the virtual model for accurate real-time results.

However, the team faced one major problem: Manual transmission.

The Tata Nano simulation model was configured to have an automatic transmission but in reality, the vehicle uses manual transmission. However, the team finally managed to overcome the difficulty by creating an improvised automatic gear shift equipment.  

While building the autonomous Nano, John and his team also created a more modular version of this system that could be fixed in any vehicle in less than an hour. He checked the vehicle extensively, and concluded that the vehicle is “much more accurate than any human driver.”  

At a time when numerous tech giants around the globe are spending millions on self-driven car technology, it is a great accomplishment for his team to build an automated car. “I am proud to say that this is Made in India,” John concluded.

Source: Dr Roshy John

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