Connected Car Race Heats Up in India

Image credit: iStockphoto/metamorworks

India is shaping up as a key market for next-generation connected vehicles, with MG Motors introducing self-driving technology on new vehicles in August 2021.

MG, now owned by China state-owned SAIC Motor, has introduced the MG Astor with Level 2 self-driving technology for steering and speed control.

The MG will go up against Mercedes and Volvo models with self-driving technology in the Indian market, at less than half the price of its rivals.

There are five levels of self-driving from 0 to 5, with Level 2 cars coming equipped with an ADAS or advanced driver assistance system that can simultaneously control steering and speed.

The MG Astor also comes with a ‘Digital Passport,’ built by Indian developer Koinearth, which stores driving data from sensors in a blockchain-based platform that can inform the resale value of the vehicle and insurance premiums.

Koinearth is one of as many as 180 startups engaged by MG to develop new technologies for its models, including engineering institutes such as IIT Delhi. Another collaboration is with a startup called Park+, which offers digital parking solutions.

MG expects to double its sales to 7000 units per month with the launch of the Astor and says this number would be higher if not for the semiconductor shortage.

Mercedes is expected to launch a Level 3 vehicle in India following a global launch later this year. At the same time, a local manufacturer — Mahindra — has announced that its new SUV will come with ADAS, among other technologies.

Mahindra is collaborating with Bosch India to develop a new self-driving platform called AdrenoX Connect.

Last month, South Korea’s Kia Motors claimed it had sold more than 150,000 vehicles with connected software in India over the last two years, although these were at Level 1.

According to Frost & Sullivan, global sales of new connected vehicles will reach 50 million units in 2021, up 8% in 2020.

The analysts see demand for features such as bio-based health monitoring and non-touch-based haptics – technology stimulated by motion - such as gesture recognition.

“Over the next three to five years, automakers have to evaluate ideal software strategies to stay relevant and compete, which requires a fundamental overhauling of electrical and electronic architecture, operating systems, and could competencies,” said a Frost & Sullivan report.

In other connected car news, ninety companies — including majors Toyota and Nissan — have announced forming a consortium to protect connected cars from cyber attacks. 

Other members include Trend Micro, NTT Communications, and parts makers Denso and Panasonic.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has announced that automakers must store locally connected vehicle data inside the country as part of what it says is a move to strengthen data protection guidelines.

Around 15% of passenger vehicles sold in China in 2020, or some three million vehicles, had some Level 2 autonomous features.

Tesla has also announced a new data center in China to store data from vehicles sold there after its vehicles were banned from government establishments on fears they could be used to gather data.

Image credit: iStockphoto/metamorworks