View from India: Connected vehicles will change our lives

The Government of Puducherry is setting an example in moving clean and smart mobility from theoretical proposals to practical reality. Now the journey is accelerating and beginning to reduce the carbon footprint.

It’s a common sight in India to see bureaucrats travelling in government vehicles, their passage heralded by sirens. However, the Government of Puducherry, a Union Territory along South India’s coastline, has put aside the age-old tradition of plying one vehicle for one officer.

The change was necessitated by issues related to parking and vehicle pollution. “We at the Puducherry Government have taken a decision to outsource vehicles. With on-demand mobility, the cost per litre has reduced from Rs46 to Rs29. There has been a reduction of parking space of government vehicles in public and better asset utility,” explained P Pravimal Abhishek, IAS, Assistant Collector, Government of Puducherry, speaking at the CII Smart Mobility Conference.

It’s been a good starting point, and the government is now preparing to address auto-rickshaws, a popular form of public transport. “We have 3,500 autos in our state and are encouraging the auto fleet to change to e-autos through a supportive policy,” added Abhishek. 

Besides shared mobility, another milestone that needs to be achieved is electric mobility. There’s a general consensus that one of the means of achieving electric mobility is to tweak the existing energy mix. Going by that mandate, solar power production should be encouraged through innovative rooftop solar units.

Electric mobility should bring into its fold last-mile connectivity through bus-auto electrification. It also needs to embrace two-wheelers, essential because these are alternative efficient, transport options. This thought has resulted in TieTran, an e-bike designed by Bangalore based Primerail Infralabs. TieTran is visualised as a green urban mobility solution for last-mile connectivity from metro stations and other public transit hubs to dense pockets.

Electric vehicles (EVs) require digitisation, for which manufacturers will work with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and sensors and cameras. EVs and smart parking have opened up opportunities for government-industry collaborations. “Our company has created a multi-level parking project for Bhopal, the capital city of the state of Madhya Pradesh. As part of the project, we have envisaged the design, development, implementation, operation and maintenance of a smart parking solution for on-street, off-street and multi-level parking project in Bhopal on a public–private partnership (PPP) model,” explained Sanjeev Kathpalia, CEO & managing director of Mindteck, a global technology company.

The very definition of vehicles is undergoing a metamorphosis. “Vehicles will no longer be just a mode of transport; they will be increasingly used like smartphones, as they connect to a network and impact our lives through route planning and road-lane discipline,” observed Kapil Chawla, head of ecosystem partnerships, digital transformation, Cisco India.

The computer in the car has evolved from offering entertainment to infotainment, Chawla added. Tomorrow, it will take decisions on road safety and navigation. “By 2020, 90 per cent of the vehicles will be connected and geo-connected globally. This will raise the bar for passenger experience. In times to come, it would be nice if we can have systems to create more unified passenger experience and reduce human errors,” he continued.

Safety, mobility and efficiency are among the tenets that lead to a unified passenger experience. These tenets can be achieved if every mode of transport is connected. This includes a connected transport sector, connected maritime, connected freight and logistics, connected mass transit, connected vehicles and connected aviation.

“We are looking forward to a scenario when electric vehicles and hydrogen cars will grace our Indian roads. However, tech solutions should be cost effective, enable quick movement of people and reduce dependence on personal transport. We believe that it’s not so much about cars, but about finding mobility solutions for first and last mile connectivity,” summed up Shekar Viswanathan, vice chairman and full- time director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor.

Shared mobility, which has been more circumstantial than voluntary, needs to become a way of life.

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