The Automobile Rebirth: Electric And Autonomous [Review]
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
Author: Sarthak Jain
Every day, millions of tons of carbon emissions are released in the air - both in India and the world - by internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles. This has become a contributing factor in global climatic change. Millions of people are losing their lives because of this.
But, as there is a solution to every problem, there is a solution to this problem too. Electric vehicles, or in other words EV’s operate on an electric motor instead of the conventional internal combustion engines which rely on fuels and gases. They are seen as the most viable replacement to our life-endangering ICE vehicles which cause global warming, rising pollution and throat-cutting our mother Earth.
Electric vehicles have gathered much-awaited attention in the past decade because of rising carbon footprints and other environmental impacts of fuel-based vehicles. For the first time in the history of the automobile industry, ICE vehicles face a major challenge that could completely wipe them out. Electric vehicles are much safer, reliable, quiet and light. And above all, it is a green technology which doesn’t make people feel guilty that they are harming our mother Earth. After so many benefits wouldn’t you buy an EV? Unfortunately, when you ask this question to an Indian, the answer would usually be NO.
“The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general. “No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.” According to a report in Bloomberg, India is home to 14 of the world's most polluted cities. Two-thirds of the worlds most polluted are, unfortunately, in India. ICE vehicles can be blamed for the disastrous effect. The number of ICE vehicles on Indian roads is increasing in leaps and bounds. In 2013, India unveiled the ‘National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP)’ to make electric vehicles a part of its huge automobile industry and to address vehicular emission. It included providing subsidies and infrastructure for Electric vehicles. But, sad to say, this policy remained only on paper.
The major problem with electric vehicles in India is their high prices. The average cost of a car in India is around $10,000. But, the average cost of an electric car is around $50,000- 5 times higher than that an Indian consumer would spend. In India, a car is a luxury rather than a necessity.
The government regulations and duties are very high which discourages a consumer to consider an EV. The electric infrastructure in India is also almost nil. Currently, there are only 150 charging stations in the world’s 7th largest country. These reasons backfire a rational consumer to even consider buying an electric vehicle.
Electrification has just started in India. The government has recently ordered around 10,000 vehicles. Many local governments are also taking various initiatives. Delhi government has launched its own Electric Vehicle Policy 2020 which aims to make Delhi a world leader in the field of electric vehicles. Tamil Nadu government also targets a 600 million investment to build its electric vehicle ecosystem But still there is a lot that needs to be addressed. To make electric vehicles a part of the Indian roads, the government should provide heavy subsidies on e-vehicles especially two-wheelers. It should also reduce duties and promote foreign companies to invest in Indian electric vehicle ecosystem. Exclusive models -keeping in mind the price-sensitive consumers in India- can also boost sales of EVs in India. Electric vehicles would also help India to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
The world has made a lot of progress in Electric vehicle ecosystem during the last decade. Tesla a, an electric-vehicle automobile company, has also become the world’s most valuable automaker. In Norway, Electric vehicles are breaking all the sales records. In the U.S, Automakers like Tesla and Faraday Future are working relentlessly to develop new technologies that would give Electric vehicles a competitive edge. Undoubtedly, the future of EVs seems bright. Electric vehicles could be the driving force to reduce the spread of the ‘new tobacco.’
But as we look towards the future the automobile industry is gearing for yet another change - introduction of self driving vehicles.
Can you imagine a car driving by itself without any human input? Autonomous vehicles, or self driving vehicles as they are usually called, combine a variety of sensors to perceive their surroundings such as radar, lidar, Sonar, GPS, odometry and inertial measurement units. Advance control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths as well as obstacles and relevant signals.
Almost every major automobile company like Volkswagen, Tesla and Toyota are pumping billions of dollars into research and development of self driving vehicles. Non-automobile tech companies such as Google and Sony are also showing interest. Waymo, a self driving automobile car by Google, is even one of the front-runners to develop the first self driving car for public use. It has even started people use its self driving taxi in some areas of Phoenix Arizona.
The level of automation of these vehicles have been classified into various stages. It includes six stages with level zero being the lowest and level five being the highest. In level zero the automated vehicle just issues precautionary warnings with very rare small interventions. Almost all the cars we drive today have this stage. The best example of this stage can be the one when the vehicle starts to beep on not wearing seat belts or when the vehicle has less then preset distance from other objects.
Then comes the level one, in which the driver and the vehicle share some of the controls of the vehicle. The steering wheel, though, must always be in the control of the driver. Cruise control, in which the vehicle maintains the constant speed on open roads, and automatic parking features are a part of the level one automation stage. Many of the luxurious cars can be seen boasting these features. Then comes level two for which the beloved electric car Tesla is famous for. In this the driver can keep his hands off the steering wheel. The automatic test system takes full control of the vehicle: accelerating, braking and steering but the driver must always be ready to take on the control of the vehicle in the unfortunate times of an emergency. In many of level two stage vehicles, the eyes of the driver are monitored by the cameras to check if the driver is paying attention to the traffic. This is also the last stage which is available for the general public to use till now.
Level three is the stage where the fun begins. In this stage, the driver can even keep his eyes off. The driver can safely ship his attention away from the driving tasks. The driver can even watch a movie or text someone. The vehicle can even perform some emergency tasks like emergency braking. The vehicle will automatically tell you when to drive, like in the situation of busy roads. After this stage there is level four. Under this stage the driver can even keep his mind of the car, i.e. he can sleep or even leave the driver seat. It would work only in a few geographical conditions. The best example would be a robotic delivery service system. At last, there is Level 5, which various companies are trying to achieve. In Level 5, it is optional for the driver to drive the vehicle. No human intervention is required at all. It is a vehicle which works on all the roads. It is the stage when even human drivers would become the things of the past. It requires a sophisticated network of devices and the internet. It will never ask for any intervention. The first three stages are where the humans have superior responsibility and in the last three stages, the automated system monitors have superior responsibility.
Various governments are also pushing companies and providing incentives to develop autonomous vehicles. They will introduce a new set of advantages for the society. Millions of people lose their lives in fetal vehicles accidents. But with the introduction of self driving vehicles this number could be down to 0. These vehicles can prevent human errors as it is all controlled by a system. It also leaves no opportunities for destruction. The vehicles can also coordinate with each other, listening to the chances of accidents dramatically. Since these icons are coordinated with each other, they also reduce congestion on the road. The vehicles simultaneously share location with each other which helps in the prediction of traffic problems. It also fixes road detours instantly. It could even pick up hand signals from motorcyclists and react to it accordingly.
These are not just, autonomous vehicles and other benefits also. They also have the feature of stress-free parking. They can drop you off at your location and he directly to the vacant parking spot. These vehicles also save humans a lot of time. Since the vehicles take the control, humans can attend a meeting, continue to work or spend some quality time catching up with their family without having the fear of root safety. We even help the disabled or elderly, who are unable to drive cars, travel hassle-free in them.
Just like every coin has two sides, autonomous vehicles also have your own set of disadvantages. As these vehicles use sophisticated and expensive equipment, a large amount of money has also been invested for their research and development. They even require the finest software and sensors. Others, their cost might be initially very high. We can only hope to see these in the hands of a common man after around a couple of decades. They also may be prone to serious problems which also concern the current generation-hacking. Since these vehicles operate on the internet they could also be the next target of hackers. On hacking, these vehicles can behave in an unusual manner. They may also collect personal data of the owners. And, since it is a technology, there are chances of a glitch. Imagine you are travelling for an important meeting and there is a certain place and the car stops in between. But above all, there is another big problem: loss of millions of jobs. Most of the drivers will lose their job. Unemployment levels will rise in leaps and bounds.
Even though these vehicles have many disadvantages, their advantages outweigh them. Deaths on roads will almost be 0. Harmful emissions will also reduce significantly. It will also increase human productivity by reducing travel time. Universal basic income could also solve the problem of loss of jobs.
The combination of electric and autonomous vehicles seems to make the future of driving really bright. They will transform the way we look at our cars.
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 Damian Carrington and Matthew Tawlor. “Air pollution is the ‘new tobacco’, warns WHO head”
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 Preetipadma. “Top 10 autonomous vehicles to watch out in 2020”
 Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-driving_car
 Pete Goldin. “10 advantages of autonomous vehicles.”
 Josphine Young.”Driveless Cars; the benefits and disadvantages.”