Kolkata – India’s first fully operational self-driving car will debut soon, thanks to scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (IIT KGP). Well past the design stage, the Eklavya 2.0 should be ready to drive – without a driver at the helm – by early next year.
According to Srinivas Reddy, team leader of the car project, three kinds of operations are being looked at: mining, agriculture and automobiles. The first two applications will be fully automatic, but as a driverless automobile, the Eklavya 2.0 will operate like a normal car with a human being at the wheel, which can be switched into auto mode, said Reddy.
Driverless cars operate using computer programs, cameras, radar sensors and global positioning systems (GPS). Self-driving cars will be far safer than vehicles with human beings at the wheel, as, “Ninety percent of road accidents happen due to human errors,” noted Reddy. The reaction time of a machine is far less than that of a driver, Reddy pointed out, saying that the Eklavya 2.0 will have a “much lower accident rate” than a traditional car with a driver.
Reddy also noted that Indian cities will present unique challenges to the driverless car due to poorly maintained roads and crowded traffic conditions, which the team is factoring into the programming of the vehicle.
The Eklayva 2.0 recently participated in the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition in the US at Oakland University in the state of Michigan, and scored near the top. It was the fifth fastest to complete the 600 foot long course in the basic challenge and ninth fastest in the advanced challenge, out of the 56 participating teams from all over the world.
The high-tech car can perform many other unique feats. “It can go to places where humans may be unable to drive and also pick up environmental cues like noxious gases with the help of sensors,” said Professor Debashish Chakravarty of the Department of Mining Engineering at IIT KGP.
Chakravarty is mentoring the project along with over 30 undergraduate and postgraduate students that are specializing in computer science, mechanical, electronics, electrical or mining engineering. The car has been under development by the Autonomous Ground Vehicle Research Group (Team AGV) of IIT KGP since 2011.
Funded largely by the Institute, the project is estimated to cost around $227,411 (Rs 1.5 crore). Perception, navigation and control features are currently being developed for testing in a full-sized car in simulation. Google Worldwide has also developed a similar car, but once IIT Kharagpur puts this car on the road, it will definitely add a new dimension to Asia’s world of automated automobile technology.