The first self-driving car startup in India has received funding. 1.7 million dollars
In a seed round, Minus Zero, India’s first firm to manufacture cheap, completely self-driving cars, has acquired $1.7 million from Chiratae Ventures. The investment included JITO Angel Network, a few top executives from American chipmaker NVIDIA, and US-based car-hailing firm Lyft, which competes with Uber.
Minus Zero wants to use the funds to grow its workforce and establish a large autonomous car research and development infrastructure to bring its first car on the road by late 2022 or early 2023.
“Minus Zero thinks that the complexity of self-driving cars can be solved not by adding more sensors or petabytes of data, but by making AI more intuitive, comparable to how our brain handles decision making,” the company said in a statement to the media.
Gagandeep Reehal and Gursimran Kalra launched the Bengaluru-based business in 2021, and it employs a combination of camera-based vision and algorithms to power its self-driving technology. The company claims to have many patents “in the pipeline” and a distinctive self-driving approach that replicates human intuition, allowing the software to make confident decisions even with limited data inputs.
“This enables robust decision making, which is critical for safe navigation in settings where extrinsic factors like inadequate traffic infrastructure, rash driving, harsh weather, and so on would have otherwise jeopardised the vehicle’s safety,” stated Gagandeep Reehal, CEO and CTO of Minus Zero.
TCM Sundaram, the founder and vice chairman of Chiratae Ventures, feels that self-driving cars are no longer a future thing and must become a reality now. He pointed out that expanding self-driving cars beyond a few cities requires rethinking rather than depending on expensive technologies.
Minus Zero, which is still in its early stages, competes with global tech heavyweights Tesla and Google, working on self-driving technology for years. No major Indian company is testing these vehicles since the technology is projected to take longer due to traffic congestion, diverse terrains, and other factors.
About Minus Zero
Minus Zero is India’s first fully autonomous vehicle startup. It was the first business in India to test an utterly autonomous prototype on India’s unregulated public roadways. They are pioneering AV 3.0, closely innovating at an intuitive intersection of cognitive AI, autonomy, and product engineering, bringing a radical shift in how vehicle problem statements are perceived – by making the vehicle think like we humans do, by making the best use of minimal data and compute, and by making it more affordable, more robust, and more comfortable.
Minus Zero, backed by India’s top tech VCs and marquee angel investors, is developing the world’s most human-like self-driving automobiles (yet safer than human drivers), which will connect them to everything and everyone they care about.
This began as an offshoot of an initiative to combat the country’s rising rate of road accidents. The human driver is responsible for more than 80% of all traffic accidents. It’s past time for the travel experience in a congested country like India to become more rider-centric, reducing the strain on drivers.
Minus Zero’s cutting-edge research and development in nature-inspired AI architecture marvels with less reliance on previous training datasets and the ability to extract greater insights from limited inputs will help create affordable and standalone AI-enabled solutions with sector-agnostic benefits.
With powerful, completely autonomous driving capabilities in electric vehicles, Minus Zero hopes to shape the next decade in the automotive industry.
Minus Zero is a group of young and active innovators and engineers who are focused on innovating quickly. They’re constructing the ‘stuff.’ They may occasionally fail. But they brush themselves off and return to the ‘stuff’ with a fresh perspective.
Minus Zero is a group of people from all around the country who have come together to establish a sustainable future for humanity. They come from fields as diverse as computer science, robotics, vehicle engineering, finance, and management.
About self- driving car
A self-driving car (also called an autonomous car or a driverless car) is a car that navigates between destinations without the assistance of a human driver, relying on a combination of sensors, cameras, radar, and artificial intelligence (AI). A car must be able to go to a predefined place without human intervention on roads that have not been modified for its use to be deemed entirely autonomous.
Among the firms developing and testing autonomous vehicles are Audi, BMW, Ford, Google, General Motors, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo. As part of Google’s test, a fleet of self-driving cars, including a Toyota Prii and an Audi TT, drove over 140,000 miles of California streets and highways.
How self-driving cars work
Self-driving car systems rely on artificial intelligence. These car developers use massive volumes of data from image recognition systems and machine learning and neural networks to create systems that can drive themselves.
Patterns in the data are discovered by neural networks, which are subsequently fed into machine learning algorithms. Images from these car cameras train the neural network to recognise traffic signals, trees, curbs, pedestrians, street signs, and other elements of any given driving environment.
For example, Google’s Waymo self-driving car project integrates data from sensors, lidar (light detection and ranging — a technology similar to RADAR), and cameras to recognise everything in the vehicle’s vicinity and forecast what those items will do next. Infractions of a second, this occurs. For these systems, maturity is crucial. The more data the system can assimilate into its deep learning algorithms, the more complex driving decisions it can make.
The following is a breakdown of how Google Waymo vehicles operate:
The driver decides on a route. The car’s software calculates a route.
A revolving, roof-mounted Lidar sensor scans a 60-meter radius around the car and generates a live three-dimensional (3D) map of the vehicle’s current surroundings.
By monitoring sideways movement, a sensor on the left rear wheel detects the car’s position on the 3D map.
Front and rear bumper radar systems evaluate distances to obstructions.
The AI software in the car is linked to all of the sensors and collects data from Google Street View and the car’s video cameras.
Deep learning is used by the AI to mimic human vision and decision-making processes, and to govern actions in driver control systems like steering and braking.
The car’s software uses Google Maps to get a head start on landmarks, traffic signs, and lights.
Cars with self-driving features
Google’s Waymo is an example of a nearly fully self-driving car. A human driver is still needed, but only to overrule the system when necessary. It isn’t fully self-driving, but it can drive itself in ideal situations. It has a lot of independence. Many of today’s consumer cars have lower autonomy but have self-driving capabilities. The self-driving characteristics that are available in many production cars include the following:
Without the driver’s hands on the wheel, hands-free steering centres the car. The driver must be alert at all times.
Down to a stop, adaptive cruise control (ACC) maintains a preset gap between the driver’s automobile and the car in front.
Lane-centering steering automatically nudges the car toward the opposing lane marking when the driver crosses lane markers.
Levels of autonomy in self-driving cars
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines six levels of automation, starting with Level 0 (human-driven cars) and progressing to completely autonomous vehicles. The five stages that follow Level 0 automation are as follows:
Level 1: An advanced driver assistance system assists a human driver with steering, braking, and acceleration, but not all simultaneously. Rearview cameras and features such as a vibrating seat warning informing drivers when they drift out of the travelling lane is part of an ADAS.
Level 2: An ADAS that can steer, brake, or accelerate while the driver remains utterly conscious behind the wheel and continues to operate the vehicle.
Level 3: Under specific conditions, like parking the automobile, an autonomous driving system (ADS) can conduct all driving activities. In these situations, the human driver must be prepared to assume control of the car.
Level 4: An ADS can conduct all driving functions and monitor the driving environment in some circumstances. The ADS is reliable enough in those situations that the human driver does not need to pay attention.
Level 5: The car’s ADS acts as a virtual chauffeur, driving the car under all conditions. The human occupants are only meant to be passengers and not drive the car.
Automobile manufacturers have reached Level 4 as of 2019. Before entirely autonomous vehicles may be purchased and operated on public roads in the United States, manufacturers must cross several technology hurdles and solve several critical challenges. Even though Level 4 self-driving vehicles are not accessible for general usage, they are used in many ways.
For example, Google’s Waymo teamed up with Lyft to launch Waymo One, a self-driving commercial ride-sharing service. Riders can request a self-driving car to take them to their destination and provide Waymo feedback. If the ADS needs to be overridden, the vehicles still include a safety driver. As of late 2019, the service is only offered in Metro Phoenix, but it plans to expand to areas in Florida and California.
In China’s Hunan province, autonomous street-sweeping vehicles are being developed, matching the Level 4 requirements for navigating a familiar terrain autonomously with few unique scenarios.
Manufacturers’ estimates for when Level 4 and 5 vehicles will be generally accessible vary. Ford and Volvo are expected to deploy a public-use Level 4 vehicle in 2021. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and a pioneer of both self-driving and electric vehicles, has stated that his business will have Level 5 vehicles available by 2020. A Level 5 vehicle must be capable of reacting to novel driving circumstances and or better than a person.
The advantages and disadvantages of self-driving cars
The biggest benefit mentioned by proponents of driverless vehicles is safety. According to a statistical prediction from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,150 individuals died in motor vehicle traffic incidents in 2017. According to reports, 94 per cent of serious crashes are caused by human error or poor decisions, like driving while intoxicated or preoccupied. Self-driving cars eliminate those risk variables from the equation, but they are still subject to other factors that cause crashes, like mechanical faults.
The economic benefits of driverless automobiles could be tremendous if they can drastically reduce the number of crashes. Injuries cost $57.6 billion in missed workplace productivity and $594 billion in lost life and reduced quality of life.
In principle, if autonomous cars dominated the roads, traffic would flow more smoothly, and there would be less congestion. The occupants of fully automated vehicles could accomplish productive tasks while going to work. People who are unable to drive owing to physical constraints could gain new independence and be able to work in industries that involve driving, thanks to self-driving vehicles.
In the United States and Europe, self-driving trucks have been tried to allow drivers to use autopilot over long distances, allowing them to rest or do activities while enhancing driver safety and fuel efficiency. Truck platooning is a cooperative ACC endeavour fueled by ACC, collision avoidance technologies, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications (CACC).
One of the disadvantages of self-driving technology is that riding in a vehicle without a driver behind the wheel may be unsettling at first. But, as self-driving vehicles grow more popular, human drivers may become unduly reliant on autopilot technology, putting their safety in the hands of automation, even while they should be acting as backup drivers in software or mechanical fault.
Tesla’s Model X sport utility vehicle was on autopilot when it smashed into a highway lane barrier in March 2018. The driver’s hands were not on the car’s steering wheel despite visible and aural warnings to do so, according to the business. Another accident occurred when a Tesla’s AI confused the gleaming side of a truck for the sky.
Self-driving car safety and challenges
Self-driving vehicles must learn to recognise many items in their route, ranging from branches and litter to animals and people. Tunnels that interfere with the GPS, building projects that necessitate lane changes, and complex judgments, like where to stop to allow emergency vehicles to pass, are all obstacles on the road.
The systems must make split-second decisions on when to slow down, swerve, or maintain regular acceleration. Self-driving cars have been reported to pause and swerve excessively when objects are identified on or near the highways, which is a continuing difficulty for developers.
This issue was highlighted in a deadly accident involving an Uber-operated autonomous car in March 2018. According to the business, the vehicle’s algorithms detected a pedestrian but judged it a false positive and failed to swerve to avoid hitting her. Toyota has temporarily halted the testing of self-driving cars on public highways due to the accident, although testing will continue elsewhere. The Toyota Research Institute is building a test facility on a 60-acre location in Michigan to further automated car technology.
When these vehicle is involved in an accident, the subject of guilt arises, and policymakers have yet to specify who is responsible. There are fears that the software used to drive autonomous vehicles could be hacked, and automakers are working to mitigate the dangers.
Carmakers must adhere to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that more effort is needed to ensure that automobiles meet these requirements.
Carmakers and regulators in China take a different approach to meet the criteria and make self-driving cars a reality. The Chinese government is starting to rethink urban landscapes, policies, and infrastructure to make the environment more self-driving and car-friendly. This includes developing guidelines for how humans move around and enlisting the help of mobile network carriers to handle some of the processing required to provide self-driving vehicles with the data they need to navigate.
It would be implemented as “National Test Roads.” This is made possible by the Chinese government’s autocratic nature, which avoids the litigious democracy that American tests go through.
History of self-driving cars
Before 2000, the road to self-driving automobiles was paved with incremental automation technologies for safety and convenience, such as cruise control and antilock brakes. After the millenium, advanced safety features like electronic stability control, blind-spot detection, and collision and lane-shift alerts became available in automobiles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sophisticated driver assistance capabilities like rearview video cameras, automated emergency braking, and lane-centring assistance debuted between 2010 and 2016.
Since 2016, these cars have progressed toward partial autonomy, including lane-keeping assistance, ACC, and the capacity to self-park.
NHTSA provides regulatory recommendations for introducing ADSes onto public roads in the United States, and the department’s guidance will evolve as autonomous car technology progress.
On most roads, self-driving cars are still illegal. Nevada was the first state in the world to allow these vehicles to be tested on public roads in June 2011, and California, Florida, Ohio, and Washington, DC have since followed suit.
The history of self-driving cars dates back much further. Around 1478, Leonardo da Vinci created the first prototype. Da Vinci’s automobile was conceived as a spring-powered self-propelled robot with programmable steering and the capacity to follow predetermined paths.
Self-driving vehicles and the challenges in India
India’s automobile industry is one of the world’s largest, contributing significantly to the country’s employment, manufacturing and production sectors, exports, foreign commerce, and revenue.
Even still, most vital businesses do not view India as becoming a major centre for self-driving vehicles anytime soon, owing to the following challenges:
Because many people’s lives depend on their day-to-day earnings as cabs or personal drivers, the government believes that the loss of jobs will be too great if these vehicles are deployed in the country.
India’s lack of sufficient infrastructures, like potholes and unpaved roads, makes it difficult for a self-driving car to travel at its current development levels.
People are less concerned about obeying some of the country’s daily norms; jaywalking, driving on the wrong side of the road, not following lane driving, overspeeding, jumping red lights, and so on are everyday daily events in our country that no one thinks twice about.
Highways, rural areas, and even large towns are prone to animals roaming the streets; animal-drawn carts and herds can occasionally totally block the roads.
These are just a few of the general hurdles that a self-driving car will face to be used in India. Furthermore, if we look at the regulatory side, we are equally unprepared, as India’s current legislation does not even allow for the testing of automated vehicles.
Legal obstacles in India
Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
The Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, in its current form, makes no provision for self-driving vehicles in any capacity, including testing on Indian roads. A bill to alter the Motor Vehicles Act for autonomous vehicle testing has been in the works for nearly four years, but it has gotten little support.
The best-case situation would be for India to create a distinct autonomous car policy.
Because the Act only allows anyone over the age of 18 with a driver’s licence to use a car. The rule becomes obsolete for self-driving vehicles unless the government creates a separate licence for these vehicle users. And more importantly, can a minor ride alone in a fully self-driving vehicle as they are not actually driving it?
Furthermore, according to section 109 of the Motor Vehicles Act, every motor car must be manufactured and maintained. It is always under the person’s effective control, which is not the situation with self-driving cars.
Who will be accountable in the event of liability after an accident when the insurance is required to pay for the damages? The proprietor? The chauffeur? Or perhaps the producer?
To find answers to these problems, the government must first begin work on a bill to allow self-driving car testing in India.
Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Product liability is defined as “the responsibility of a product manufacturer or product seller, of any product or service, to compensate for any harm caused to a consumer by such defective product manufactured or sold, or by a deficiency in services relating thereto” under section 2(34) of the Consumer Protection Act.
In addition, under the Motor Vehicles Act, the owner or driver of a completely self-driving car can’t cause an accident; therefore, in this situation, either the manufacturer or the software developer, or both, will be liable for any damages caused by the autonomous vehicle.
The regulations will have to clarify the assignment of duty and the scope of contributory negligence to eliminate ambiguity and assign blame to the appropriate party.
Information Technology Act, 2000
In India, the right to privacy is seen as a fundamental right, although the country has yet to establish explicit data protection legislation. The Indian Congress amended the Information Technology Act (2000) to include Sections 43A and 72A, which provide a right to compensation for false disclosure of personal information.
Under Section 43A, the government issued the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011. Additional standards for collecting and disclosing sensitive personal data or information have been imposed on commercial and corporate enterprises in India under the Rules.
Tampering, hacking, or damaging a computer or computer system as defined in Sections 43, 65, and 66 of the Act as a situation in which someone destroys, deletes, or alters any information in a computer resource or diminishes its value, or affects it injuriously by any means, with the goal or knowledge of causing unlawful loss or damage
The preceding provisions will apply to autonomous cars, their manufacturers, owners, occupants, and third parties.
The Rules have put additional standards on commercial and corporate companies in India to collect and disclose sensitive personal data or information.
Many act define tampering, hacking, or damaging a computer or computer system as a situation in which someone destroys, deletes, or alters any information in a computer resource, or diminishes its value, or affects it injuriously by any means, with the intent to cause wrongful loss or damage, or knowledge of the same.
The provisions above will apply to self-driving vehicles, their manufacturers, owners, passengers, and third parties.
A new mechanism for identifying whether the incident was due to a technical failure or a third-party hack on the vehicle’s software must also be established.
Stricter legislation against jaywalking and the implementation of basic traffic rules in towns, cities, and highways will improve India’s traffic situation and promote the development of self-driving vehicles.
Laws will also need to include measures for protecting and responsible use of passenger/occupier data and higher sanctions and punishments for hackers and cyber espionage.
A new law for self-driving vehicles would be ideal, encompassing their use, production, liability, insurance, data protection, etc.
The way ahead
Human error is responsible for nearly all road accidents, but most autonomous car software systems will eliminate all human errors with advances in technology and machine learning.
The Indian government believes that if self-driving vehicles are introduced in the country, more than a crore people will lose their jobs. A major percentage of the population works as drivers in some capacity. However, there will be a substantial increase in employment in the IT & ITES industry, as the self-driving vehicle industry requires significant input from IT specialists. Using compliance management software will help you better prepare for the issues that an autonomous vehicle firm will face in India and the regulatory adjustments that will be needed.
If not for public use right away, self-driving cars must be allowed for private use first, then gradually integrated into public use, like on-demand taxis and long-haul transportation.
Reduced road accidents, adherence to speed limits, and lane driving are just a few of the benefits that these vehicles will provide.
Autonomous vehicle testing must be approved in India, and the long process of upgrading our infrastructure and laws must begin.