The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Chetna Kohli, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
Tata Motors is closely watching the autonomous-driving technologies being developed globally by big corporations like of Daimler, Google, Tesla, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). Following the trend, the homegrown automobile major wants to bring driver assistance functions like collision avoidance and automated parking to its cars in India.
There is a global movement towards greater autonomy and eventually autonomous cars will be the prevalant norm. So, it’s important for us in India to understand the technologies that will come into our market gradually.
Tata Motors, which is seeking technology as a differentiator to regain its lost market share, is shipping its current batch of cars with features such as free in-car navigation. The firm has partnered with MapMyIndia to provide the service and says it’s the first firm not just in India, but world over to do this.
While the technology today is allowing customers to get a better and seamless experience in the car, in the future, it will allow cars to park themselves, improve safety in low-visibility situations and much more. These are the smart features that customers will want and Tata wants a head start in delivering these to its target audience.
Tata has distinct advantages over other Indian car manufacturers when it comes to autonomous cars owing to its subsidiary JLR and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). JLR is developing its own autonomous car technologies, which could be adopted in Tata’s affordable vehicles. JLR has showcased apps that allow users to control their cars from outside, using smartphones. TCS has, over the years, built expertise across several technology verticals, including robotics.
The other direction cars are moving in is being powered by electric drivetrains. Here, Tata has made significant headstart, not just in cars but in commercial vehicles as well. While the company had participated in a UK government-funded project to test electric cars on the roads a few years ago, electric buses are more likely to hit the roads sooner. However, the infrastructure for charging and supporting that in India is not there available. So, in the shorter term hybrid vehicles are anticipated.
When it comes to electric cars, Mahindra & Mahindra has the lead among Indian manufacturers. By buying Bengaluru-based Reva, the company has already put its first electric vehicle, the e2o on roads. Tata, on the other hand, thinks hybrid will win over purely electric in the short term, thanks to the lack of infrastructure and high costs. In the long term, however, stricter emission norms are likely to promote electric vehicles.