Driverless cars may be decades away from becoming a reality in India, but the technology seems to have piqued the interest of many Indians. A recent survey on public perception of autonomous vehicle tech and self-driving cars revealed some interesting finds – 49 percent of Indian respondents were most excited about driverless cars, followed by survey participants in Malaysia (48 percent) and China (46 percent). The positive perception towards self-drive cars in these nations was much higher than the global 30 percent average.
In comparison, developed countries such as Britain (19 percent), the US (22 percent) and Germany (19 percent) saw fewer respondents favouring driverless cars.
The study was conducted by global market research firm Ipsos, which surveyed over 21,000 adults across 28 countries to understand consumer openness. The survey was centred on the assumption that cars would be equipped with automation technology in 10 years.
“Indians want to get rid of driving hassles like unruly traffic and poor roads. They believe autonomous cars are going to make life easy,” Parijat Chakraborty, executive director, Ipsos Public Affairs & Loyalty told Autocar India.
The survey found that 64 percent of Indians were keen to use autonomous parking always or frequently, while 65 percent said they would use autonomous functionality when driving in the city (61 percent for the highway).
The poll further revealed that 78 percent Indians felt self-driving cars would be ‘more relaxing’, which is the second-highest percentage out of the 28 countries in the survey (Malaysia: 81 percent). Moreover, 67 percent felt self-driving cars would be ‘safer’, while 69 percent felt it would be ‘more economical’.
The excitement around driverless cars may be high among Indians, but the shift towards such technology is far slower in India than in other countries. The roll-out of autonomous vehicles will be a complex task in India due to significant challenges such as poor infrastructure and lack of reliable traffic data.
According to another Ipsos study, a possible but complex solution to this challenge could be developing adaptive machine learning algorithms based on existing driving habits and roads conditions. More importantly, Indian carmakers will have to reduce their time to market by increasing partnerships in artificial intelligence, safety technologies and software integration, the study observed.
The government will also have a key role to play in making driverless vehicles a reality. Apart from funding, clearer government policies will be required to support autonomous vehicle testing. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has gone on record to say he will not allow autonomous cars for their effect on employment. Revealingly, the survey found most Indians preferred driverless car manufacturers to self-regulate, over government regulation.
In conversation with Parijat Chakraborty, Executive Director, Ipsos Public Affairs
Realistically, how far are driverless cars from reality in India?
Driverless cars are going to take pretty long before we see them on Indian roads, if at all. The programmers will go to their wit’s end to accommodate unique intelligence such as bullock carts and kids running along the roadside. However, autonomous parking or autonomous emergency braking will come sooner and has already started featuring in some high-end cars.
Is there potential for autonomous vehicles to become affordable?
Autonomous vehicles are going to become much more affordable than we imagine. Naturally, the initial cost is going to be high and early adopters are going to pay for that. But, like any other technology, mass production of autonomous vehicles can bring the cost down drastically. However, driverless vehicles, if allowed in India, will involve huge government investment to make the road infrastructure conducive and make the traffic disciplined. Clearly, as a country we can’t afford it.