Car? No, I would instead take the horse carriage! 

You must be wondering what I am talking about. I am saying that cars will go out of fashion soon, and will be replaced by horse carriages. Technological changes are developed over a period, but once they reach the tipping point, technology spread can be breathtaking. Okay, I was joking!  What I want to say is that IC Engine cars will be replaced by Electric Vehicles!

The photos below were taken 13 years apart. It’s 5th avenue in New York. The first picture was taken in the year 1900, and the second one was taken in the year 1913. Production of the Ford T model started in 1908, and by the year 1930, the equestrian age was over for all practical purpose. Such is the power of disruptive technology.

We can replace these years by the current relevance of electric vehicles; replace the year 1900 by 2010, 1913 by 2023 and 1908 by 2018 the trend looks very similar. IC engine vehicles will be replaced by 2040 if we replace the year 1930 by the same logic. Are you surprised? At least I am not surprised. In the first 30 years of the last century, there were many battery-operated vehicles, but somehow the research in battery technology lagged far behind other developments. IC engine cars took over.

The year 2019 has seen dramatic sales drop in Indian Automotive sector. Sales are down by about 10 % in two-wheelers, by average 25% in cars and 35 to 40% in the commercial sector. Is the point of inflexion in the automotive sector reached? Nobody can explain why this is happening. The only sector where sales are doing well is high-end cars. In this range, people buy cars when they want, recession or no recession!

According to me, there could be many reasons. For the first time in the car segment, the number of second-hand cars sold was more than the new cars sold. Millennials would rather buy a second-hand Corolla instead of buying a new I 10. Or they may not buy cars at all and use Olas and Ubers.  According to me, two-wheeler production has reached a saturation point.  Add to the woes of automotive sector, Metros are getting operational in many large cities; their introduction is also a game changer.

In the commercial sector, many things have happened in the last five years. Roads all over India have become much better. The stoppages of these vehicles at various hurdles has reduced to one hurdle, the toll plazas. Most other checkpoints have gone away because of system changes. Because of this change, the turnaround time of these vehicles has improved drastically. Computerisation, GPS and other such systems have helped to keep track of the vehicles easily. Now toll collection all over India will also become automated in the next few months due to mandatory implementation of RFID technology. It will further reduce the time wasted at the toll plaza! The overall efficiency improvement has resulted in a reduction of the commercial vehicles required by the industry.

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On top of this scenario, Electric Vehicles are slowly being introduced. What direction it will take is difficult to predict. But it appears that many Metro cities are trying to introduce Electric buses.

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In Nagpur, Ola has introduced 200 Mahindra Electric cars. Raipur has introduced 200 Mahindra autos. It appears that established companies are coming into the market strongly. Bajaj Auto has declared introduction of Chetak Electric scooters.

Tata Motors is talking about introducing Electric cars for individual customers. MG Motors and Hyundai have introduced high-end Electric SUV’s, with good range per charge, in the Indian market.

So, the similarity between horse carriages/cars and IC Engine cars/EV’s is not far-fetched! Another strong variable getting into the market is driverless cars. Looking at traffic in India, we feel that it will be impossible to introduce such cars in India. But in the developed countries this technology has been developed, and it is said that driverless vehicles will come on the roads by the 2021/2022. How will this development affect the car segment? Consider a journey which costs Rs 100/ today. If Ubers and Olas of this world introduce driverless cars, the cost of the journey will reduce by say, Rs.30/. Further, they introduce Electric driverless vehicles.  Assume that the running goes down by Rs.20/. The same trip will cost you Rs.50/. When the costs go down so much, will you buy a car? At least I will not buy one. There will be lots of Ubers and Olas on the road at any time.

As the battery costs go down, and as the production is scaled up, the running costs of cars will go down. Even at today’s running costs of EV per km  is less than that of IC Engine cars.

About Electric cars, we forget one thing. The batteries are going to replace petroleum products. Currently, petroleum products are delivered finally through petrol pumps. But there is a huge ecosystem which has come up over a period of one hundred years to reach the fuel to petrol pumps.

Similarly, “the new petroleum products” also need a delivery system. The delivery system is the charging station like the petrol pump. For charging we need Electricity- “the new petroleum”. Increasing electricity production is also equally important; it is equivalent to oil wells. Non-conventional methods like Solar, Windmills and Nuclear power stations are the way forward. In the time frame that I have mentioned above, the required infrastructure will be in place.

What about the scaling of battery production? It is already happening. Tesla is in the process of setting up a Giga factory. Part of this factory is leased to Panasonic. Panasonic brings their raw material and processes it, and produces battery cells. These cells are  handed over to Tesla on the same premises, and Tesla do the final assembly.

Similarly, Volkswagen is also in the process of setting up its own Giga factory for battery production. I am sure other serious players will follow suit. In India, Toyota and Suzuki have joined hands with Toshiba to manufacture batteries in a plant in Sanand. Suzuki will make Electric cars for both themselves and Toyota in India, using Toyota technology. Toyota has joined hands with Mazda in the US!

Unless you make your own batteries, the cost of electric vehicles will not come down. Costs will further come down on scaling. But smaller players will have a disadvantage with the cost of batteries.

I am not an expert in this field, but I have been in the automotive components field all my career. So, my comments are based on my gut feeling. Electric vehicles will spread faster in small developed countries like Norway, Sweden. In large countries, they will spread into the market in regions. For example, in the US, it can happen quickly in the bay area or areas around New York on the East Coast. The introduction will be faster in areas where average daily commute distance is smaller; people anyway will have home chargers.It can happen around London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt and so on. China anyway is way ahead of others in EV production. 50% of EV’s in world are currently made in China.

In India, I feel that it will happen faster in buses, taxis, rickshaws and high-end vehicles. In high-end vehicles if per charge distance covered is decent, price hardly matters. Total moving parts in IC Engine cars are 2000, and the same in Electric Vehicles are 20. Hence commercial vehicle maintenance cost will be reduced drastically. Once “new petroleum” infrastructure is in place, the numbers will go up exponentially in cities for local transport like buses, rickshaws. Small cars will be initially costly because of battery prices; hence, their spread will be slower.

Car? No, I would instead take the horse carriage!

Oh, my title was wrong!  I would instead take a Driverless Electric Vehicle!  

Surprising uses of GPS!

Today is world tsunami awareness day! Taking this opportunity, I thought I will share with you some interesting technical stuff.

Friends, this is not a blog in the usual sense.  It is a compilation of scientific applications of GPS in different fields. I have taken this information from the net but mainly from some documents published by Smithsonian Institution.  I thought I must share this with you folks.

https://www.si.edu/ 

If you are scientific-minded, don’t miss the opportunity to view this site. 

GPS is a commonly-understood acronym that stands for “Global Positioning System,” which in turn is an interconnected system of satellites and receivers that allows for the precise pinpointing of locations anywhere on or directly above the earth. These sorts of systems have become very popular for everyday navigation, and many cars come with receivers installed to help drivers find their way to their locations. Maps applications on many smartphones also provide this sort of turn-by-turn guidance to help people get on the right streets and take the proper exits. Beyond this more “standard” navigation, though, global positioning systems also have a significant role when it comes to navigation on the ocean, deep in the forest, and in other largely “uncharted” areas.  

The current GPS is wholly owned by the United States, but they allow free usage of the same to everybody.

Several other countries and regions, in particular Russia, the European Union, and India, have or are in the process of creating their unique systems. It is to complement the US version but potentially also to augment it and protect local users in the event of failure or other disabling of the services. 

The heart of the system relies on 24 satellites that orbit the planet twice per day. Devices that are equipped with GPS equipment receive transmissions from at least a few of the satellites and can discern exact positioning data. The first of these satellites was launched in 1974, and it wasn’t until 1994 that the 24th entered orbit. New satellites are periodically launched to replace ageing ones. 

The discussion is going to be a bit technical, but I will try my best to make it in English instead of techy language.  

I was surprised to find that GPS can be and is being used for some other applications too! It is nor surprising in the technological world. The human brain can find many different uses other than the intended usages. 

GPS is being used to 

  • Analyse atmosphere 
  • Probe the snow 
  • Sense a sinking 
  • Monitoring the Volcano 

I was also equally surprised to know these usages of GPS systems. I will briefly share how this is done. 

Analyse atmosphere 

Water vapour, electrically charged particles, and other factors can delay GPS signals travelling through the atmosphere, and that allows researchers to make new discoveries. 

A group uses GPS to study the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere that is available to precipitate out as rain or snow. Researchers use these changes to calculate how much water is likely to fall from the sky in drenching downpours. 

GPS signals are also affected when they travel through the electrically charged part of the upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere. Scientists have used GPS data to track changes in the ionosphere as tsunamis race across the ocean below The force of the tsunami produces changes in the atmosphere that ripple up to the ionosphere. These changes help in predicting details about tsunamis.

Probe the snow 

A typical GPS receiver mostly picks up signals that are coming directly from GPS satellites overhead. But it also picks up signals that have bounced on the ground you’re walking on. It is then reflected up to your smartphone. 

For many years, scientists had thought these reflected signals were nothing but messy interference of signals. Scientists started looking at the frequencies of the signals that reflected off the ground. Depending on how those combined with the signals that had arrived directly at the receiver. By studying these two signals, a scientist could deduce qualities of the surface that the echoes had bounced off.  

Such a study allows scientists to learn about the ground beneath the GPS receiver. For instance, how much moisture the soil contains or how much snow has accumulated on the surface. The more snow falls on the ground, the shorter the distance between the echo and the receiver. The technique is beneficial in areas like Arctic and Antarctica, where having physical weather stations is not practical.  

Sense a sinking 

Scientists placed one GPS station on the concrete roof of a primary school. They set up a second station nearby, atop a rod hammered into a rice paddy. If the ground is sinking, then the second GPS station will look as if it is slowly emerging from the ground. And by measuring the GPS echoes beneath the stations, the scientists can measure factors; the factors as how much water is standing in the rice paddy during the rainy season. 

Monitor a Volcano 

Many volcano observatories, for example, have GPS receivers arrayed around the mountains they monitor, because when magma begins shifting underground that often causes the surface to shift as well. By monitoring how GPS stations around a volcano rise or sink over time, researchers can get a better idea about where molten rock is flowing. 

Before the big eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, researchers used GPS to understand which parts of the volcano were shifting most rapidly. Officials used that information to help decide which areas to evacuate residents from. 

I hope you liked this compilation. The scientific theories behind these applications are too techy. Hence I have avoided using technical terms and tried to make it easy to understand.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grass is greener on the other side!

Yesterday we met one of Priya’s neighbour, while we were going out. Nikhil said, “Long time, no see!” The neighbour said that he had been very busy with work and has a busy time until it starts snowing. He has one of his businesses of cleaning sprinkling systems. I wondered what that business is. He said, “Before it starts snowing, we go to our clients. Empty the sprinkler system, then blow compressed air through the system. By doing this, all the water in the sprinkler is thrown out of the system. Cleaning is done to avoid ice formation inside the system when the system is not used in winter.” In summer, the user can start using the system again.

It put my mind working and I thought how much unaware we are of many things done in the world. Nikhil later told me that even the regular water system also needs to be checked sometimes if the flow is irregular around autumn time. The system is bled during this period to remove airlocks if any! This checking cannot be obviously done once the winter sets in.

There could be many such preventive maintenance requirements which we don’t know. Or we know, but we don’t do it. In our homes, washbasins sometimes tend to get choked after usage. There is one small device readily available in the market. How many of us keep it at home?

The next image shows a filter in the system. How many of us get it regularly cleaned? By doing self-help stuff, we can avoid emergencies.

We are unaware of so many basic things that we run into unnecessary arguments sometimes. In many cities in India, we face water shortage due to deficient rains the previous year. Water supply to homes is available for a specific period during the day. In a society where I have a condo, there was a big fight going on WhatsApp about irresponsible behaviour of people. It was said that some people just don’t care and don’t bother about checking if all taps are closed before they leave for office. When the water supply is restarted in the evening, the water is wasted as it runs; people come home late from office. I explained to them that when the water system goes fully dry, the washers and springs in flush tanks tend to get stuck or damaged. When the water is restarted, the water can continue to flow without being used unless we act on it. Then the management team understood the problem and kept water supply on round the clock, but during certain times it was kept at low pressure.

I have noticed in Montreal, the sincerity of workers. There is work going on on our road. Just now (7 am) the temperature is 2 deg C, but all of the team started work at 7 am sharp. I have not seen this happen in many of our factories also, the so-called organised sector.

Some factors affecting lives in different countries don’t even come to our mind. I know of a friend who removed the snow from his car and was about to leave. But he received a work-related call and was talking on the phone almost for an hour. He came out the second time (it was snowing all the time), removed the snow again and drove away for work. People need to keep their car running for 20 to 30 minutes in winter before moving out, especially if parked in the uncovered area.

We see and enjoy the lovely photographs from Christmas time from many places with white snow in the background. It looks beautiful in the photos, but the snow cleaning in your territory is your job. I saw some homes having staircases from outside to reach home. During the winter, the snow gathered on the stairs is your responsibility; every day you are required to clean the snow accumulated on the stairs. If someone slips because of lack of cleaning, you can be sued!

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I used to live in Model Colony in Pune, during my younger days;  when it rained heavily, a lot of water used to flow down from the hills to our area and flood it. When the rain intensity would reduce, I would go out with my son Sachin, who was 5 or 6 years old then. We would simply clean the leaves that blocked the meshes on the drainage system, and flood would be gone in five minutes. I did it a couple of years back near my office building too with the same results. Honestly, it is no big deal. But the subject came to mind due to water logging issues in Pune recently. Nowadays the drain meshes are blocked by tree leaves as well as by plastic bags. Why can’t some volunteers do this in each area once the rain intensity reduces? I am not talking about the water deluge event that occurred due to cloud burst!

I understand that because of strict traffic rules, hefty fines and their implementation, traffic is generally well-disciplined in western countries. But I have not heard of such laws for pedestrians. But why are pedestrians equally disciplined in these countries? I rarely see them breaking the rules. My granddaughter Rhea (she will be six years old soon) asked me once why don’t we follow these rules in Pune? I had no answer!

Another issue we are not aware of about winter in these areas is clothing. We know that the layers help, thermals are essential. But I was not aware that the snow jackets are designed for different temperatures. In Montreal, temperatures can go down to -35 deg C! So, jackets also have their ranges. In most cases, those designed for – 15 to – 20 deg C are enough. But when the temperature falls further, you need to wear even better ones designed for the temperature of -40 deg C!

I have understood somethings about heating systems at home here. Some are gas-based, some use water heating, and others make use of Electricity for heating. I am, of course, not aware of more details of these systems. I am not likely to understand practical difficulties in these systems as I will not be here in winter.

Each zone, each region, even in one country like India, has very different weather. So, requirements, handling of the systems will be very different from area to area. Cold countries handle temperatures from 35/40 deg C to -35 deg C. Still they manage their systems well. I will tell you about the road repairs in Montreal. It can be handled only for six to seven months in any year before the snow! But this needs a lot of planning, preparation and readiness to handle work when the slot becomes available for repairs. (Potholes in Pune and Mumbai, Delhi?)

I will share one crucial knowledge I acquired. When any area is dug for repairs of utilities like electrical cables, water lines, gas pipes the agencies have the maps ready. They dig the area using normal excavator up to a safe depth. After that, Vacuum excavators are used. They loosen the soil in that area and suck it! So, the chances of damaging any of the pipes or cables become minimal. I do not see Vacuum Excavators being used in India. Maybe they are being used, but I have not seen them!

Friends life in any part of the world has its own issues. In India, we are lucky that for most of the year we have sunlight! Weather for the most times cannot be described as harsh. But what we lack is design, planning, execution and WILL!

ERP- Enterprise Resource planning!

I felt that some complex subjects also should be known to more people; hence, I have tried to use the least possible technical language while explaining ERP. 

In my software business, we had developed an ERP called DMS, Dealership Management Systems. It was specially designed for vehicle manufacturers’ dealers. I am sure many of you may have used similar software, and a few of you may have taken part in developing such systems. Many of you may have taken part in implementing such systems. World leaders in this field are SAP. After SAP are Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle et al.  

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the integrated management of core business processes, often in real-time and made easier by software and technology. ERP is usually referred to as a sub set of business-management software — typically a suite of integrated applications—that an organisation can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities. 

ERP

You must be wondering how come I have switched from blogging to share information about a technical subject. But remember that all the grocers, chemists, restaurants, cigarette vendors almost everybody needs ERP. This ERP that I am talking about is not a software. But people track things manually, or they have information in their mind. Every business must know about stock, consumption, money receivable and money payable and many such things.  

When I go to my chemist, he still does not use an ERP, anything that is sold by him is noted down in a notebook. I am sure he must be maintaining his daily stock in some chopdi. Every day morning, he must be balancing his stock book, ordering the items. He must be aware of the delivery time and consumption pattern of various items. With this data, at least with my chemists, it is very rare that he does not have required medicines in stock. Or else he must be overstocking it! It will create a problem for him because he may not have money available to pay to his vendors on time. To avoid such situations, these folks are busy from morning 9 am to 11 pm, with a quick lunch break in between. They keep on tallying figures manually what an ERP does automatically.  

When I go to grocers, again, it is the same situation. Their shop and Warehouse, I am sure, is always wellstocked. Still, the same story will be repeated with him. One thing is sure you need to do is to keep track of these things either formally or informally. Formal tracking is done by ERP’s. 

ERP’s are used by large, medium and small-scale organisations. When the business software started evolving, initially there were separate software modules for Purchase, Sales, Stores, Production, Accounting, HR departments, and so on. In such cases, tracking and interlinking of everything must have been onerous and cumbersome.

IN DMS, when a vehicle is sold by the dealer, its inquiry is the beginning of the process of sell. When the Invoice is created by the vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle is born outside the dealer system. But for vehicle manufacturer’s internal system, it is born when the vehicle is produced, and the unique chassis number is allocated to it. The beauty of the ERP is that once the vehicle is born and dealers use ERP, the unique chassis number is never required to be entered in the system. It is always retrieved from the data available. This number is used to create an invoice on the dealer (Through SAP), to create an invoice on the customer, to create job card in the workshop, to create warranty claim, to create coupon claim. It is also required to process parts orders for accidental vehicles. Any error in punching chassis number would have created linking issue; followed by emails and phone calls and so on! ERP has solved such problems permanently.                   

We developed the ERP for dealers of vehicle manufacturers. We always got our software approved by the vehicle manufacturers, so that all the business and statutory rules were followed by dealers. I am not going to write about technology or technical aspects or complexities of coding etc.

Our ERP had CRM for basic inquiry management for the vehicles, Sales module for Vehicles and Spares, Workshop management, Accounting, small HR module. For exporting vehicles out of India, the system could handle complete inquiry and Sales aspect. A customer suggested that local dealers should not be allowed access to Export chassis and parts. Export vehicles were sent to the Docks by road. On the way to the docks, sometimes there was a need for workshop support. We had to design a system by which dealers were given access to specific export chassis, based on an incident. It was under the control of vehicle manufacturers.  

For a vehicle to be repaired under warranty, it had to be under specific km or engine hours. But in real life, this never happens. Hence, we suggested that there should be tolerance provided for distance travelled or hours of engine usage. There was one more issue in this. Sometimes odometer (it displays the total distance travelled in its lifetime ) was required to be changed in between, during the warranty period. It worked usually, but for the warranty system, we had to store and add old odometer reading plus current odometer reading. 

There was one situation which we named a Mudflap incident. After the work was performed in the workshop, invoice created and paid for; the person would say, “Oh! I forgot to tell you about Mudflap change”. Such an issue or something similar was a very common issue, but we always found a solution by tweaking the design!  

Following two examples are from the system sold to private workshops. One tricky but the real-life problem had to be handled, especially in the car segment. Many a time the car was sent by the owners with the drivers for repair. These drivers would demand some cash from garages. Now, this is a tricky situation. We created a procedure. If the driver required Rs.1000/, then the system would issue parts worth Rs.1000/ in the Job card. However, the system only included those parts for the billing purpose. But it was never considered in the inventory.  

One thing we learned from this system. Users know the use of the system better than people like us who develop the system. One day one of our customers called to thank me. I said that it was our job to provide excellent software. He told me that your new procedure could be used beneficially in engine overhauling procedure. He said, “What we do is when we overhaul an engine, at least 50% parts are reused. We show that these parts are also as “issued” for billing purpose only, though they were reused!” We never knew that we had created this procedure for the engine overhauling purpose — this facility we never provided in the “official” software of vehicle manufacturers for obvious reasons.  

There was a misconception about vehicle history. History is for the chassis number and NOT for the customer. Vehicles do get resold, but their history does not change. Many parts get changed during repairs, but chassis number is never replaced. 

In the DMS for vehicle manufacturers, we had done a lot of automation. Dealers created purchase orders, warranty claims from DMS to send to SAP. We had created a system by which this processing followed a workflow and was approved by vehicle manufacturers engineers. At this stage, these documents were called SAP ready. SAP ready documents would go to SAP at pre-scheduled intervals and would be updated in SAP. It reduced the workload on the vehicle manufacturer’s staff of punching the data in SAP. 

Similarly, a lot of data like Master data, Invoices, credit notes was sent from SAP to DMS. This data was DMS ready at the SAP side and would be pushed into DMS at prescheduled intervals. This data also got updated in ERP on dealer side saving a lot of time in punching the data.  

I think I am going a little too much into details but what I want to say is that the software like ERP makes life easy for users, creates a lot of information from the data in the form of reports, minimises errors, makes everything available live! It helps everybody to take decisions on time, thereby providing proper service to customers and helps improve profitability as correct up to date information is always available. 

Now in the last ten years or so, EV’s, driverless car systems collect massive data from the vehicles. The voluminous data has given birth to a new field  called data science! This is a totally different field as it captures the vehicle data directly. ERP is about the commercial side of the vehicles, whereas data science will purely handle the technical side of vehicles. 

To conlude, I only hope that I have tried to explain the process in as simple language as possible. My friends from technical background will of course ask questions but my non-technical friends, feel free to ask me more details.

 

Deep Discounts or Deep Distress?

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I am as usual caught in a conundrum when I read some stories. On the 15th of August National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) launched a logout campaign against the deep discount coupons that are offered by these five aggregators Zomato, EazyDinerNearbuyMagicPin and DineoutSince then, more than 2300 restaurants across the country de-listed themselves from these food apps claiming that “discount structure, terms and conditions, by the food tech companies are unjust and unsustainable.” The president of NRAI said that to stay competitive in the market, some aggregators give discount of buy one and get one free. Others have done the same thing differently; they have straight away offered a 50% discount, which means the same.  

The story does not end here. On particular Gold Card membership, such discounts are allowed on one itemBut our desi brain works interestingly. The people go to restaurant A and take starters- 50% discount. They go to another restaurant to take drinks- buy two get two free! Finally, they go to the third restaurant and order the main course- buy one get one free! Using this method, they get the whole meal at 50% discount which kills the business.   

The worst part of the whole thing is that the discounts are being borne by the restaurants and not the aggregators. The association wants these discounts to be removed so that customers get used to not getting high discounts. It is a sort of detox action that is essential, according to the association. It appears that both the sides have understood the problems created by deep discounts and they also know that it will take some time to reach normalcy and come out of the deep discount issue.  

You and I are naturally going to be unhappy with these changes. We have to now look for happy hours or special days to get good discounts. Now, these changes are going to take my outflow back to normal, which I do not like. But we should not forget that such gimmicks never work in the long term.  

I always felt as if I am an uneducated person, though I have run a small business for more than 35 years. Giant organisations like Amazon and Flipkart have been in the deep discount game for quite some time. The difference is that they give deep discounts from their pocket. For years, they offer deep discounts, give Prime memberships and so on. They keep on investing billions of dollars for years. Amazon has never made profits in the last twenty years. But they continue to invest in the business to get more and more customers all the time. Uber CEO has recently made a statement that Uber may never make profits. What is the business model of such companies? Jeff Bozos has become “poor” when he settled his divorce, and his wealth is at lowly US $ 65/ billions. He bought some time back Washington post for an all-cash deal of US $ 250/ million.  

Uneducated me does not understand the principles used in these businesses. Uber charges higher rates when demand is up. But I have seen that as a routine, they charge about 10 to 15 % more than an Auto Riksha in Pune. The price difference between an Auto Riksha and a car can be three lacs of rupees. Many Rikshas give mileage about 1.5 times more than the cars. 

On top of that, Uber takes 30% of the amount we pay to the driver. To me, the driver may break even, Uber’s figures show that they make losses. Other than making vehicles available quickly to us, are they running a charity organisation? Is it not similar to deep discounts offered by Zomato or Amazon?  Or for that matter, Oyo?

Venture capitalists, angel investors, put in their money in such companies. Venture capital is defined as capital invested in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business. I am sure that those who invest in such companies expect reasonable returns on their capital. By what I have described above, there are no returns, then why are the investments continued? Where is the source for such unlimited funds?  

There is no doubt that Amazon, Uber, Zomato are market disruptors. They have shown the world a new way of doing business, which even 25 years back did not exist. New methods, new ways of doing things make a lot of difference in day to day life. Consider AirbnbThe concept is so good that it is helping people all over the worldIt reduces the cost of travel and uses people’s assets which have been remaining idle.  

Amazon, WalmartJio are gamechanging companies which have made a big difference in our lives. But they are making these changes with their own money or at the cost of competitors. They are disrupting the market and making their competitors think; I am sure the competitors will come up with even newer ideas.  

But this deep discount business with own money or someone else’s money is not sustainable business model. I am not surprised that NRAI has revolted against it. I was talking to someone about these aggregators. It was felt that the aggregators probably sell the data of their customers to make money! When companies like Facebook have done it, what will stop the aggregators from selling data!  

Ultimately, market disruptors come with ideas and business models which were never seen before. But one thing will never changeSuch organisations have to make profits at some stage. Unless, of course, you are an Amazon or an Uber. But don’t forget that Amazon is the market leader in Cloud Computing business; so as a group, they make profitsBecoming Unicorn company (market value exceeding One Billion US $) is fine for publicity; it will help companies get more VC fundingBut if they don’t start making profits, such companies fall in the group of 95 % plus companies, which close down sometimes even without a whimper.  

 

Autonomous or Driverless Cars! (Part I)

 

 

For some time, I had in mind to read and write something about Autonomous or Driverless Cars! I started reading about these sometime back; I am really fascinated by the technology involved. From whatever little I have understood; I feel that these cars will have higher technology involvement compared to EVs. ( Electric Vehicles) Anyway, making the drivetrain in IC Engines is technology wise more complicated than the making EV drivetrain. (EV drivetrain might feel complex today because it is new) I will keep on sharing with you the information (not knowledge) I will acquire over time. My initial attempt will be a little scattered as there many things to understand and absorb.

A self-driving car (sometimes called an autonomous car or driverless car) is a vehicle that uses a combination of sensors, cameras, radar and artificial intelligence (AI) to travel between destinations without a human operator. To qualify to be called fully autonomous, a vehicle must be able to navigate without human intervention to a predetermined destination over roads that have not been adapted for its use.

The companies which are already in this field are Google’s Waymo, Apple, Volvo, General Motors, Tesla, Volkswagen, Nissan, to name a few! Many of these companies are NOT into car manufacture but are developing this technology as they have the wherewithal! As usual, who will end up at the top in the race only time can tell. There will be mergers and acquisitions. To my understanding, only Apple and Google have the money to manufacture the cars too! But I have my serious doubts if they will get into car making.

Driverless1

The above graph is showing data from 10 companies. It shows the number of miles driven before the manual intervention is needed while driving autonomous cars. Waymo needed manual intervention after every eleven thousand miles, whereas Apple needed manual intervention after every 1.1 miles. It indicates that Waymo and GM Cruise are way ahead of others in this technology. It also shows the safety aspect too! If I have to buy a car, I will buy a car using Waymo technology.

Which other aspects need to be checked and discussed? To start with, I am going to deal with the type of automation that is available in these cars. I used to visualise that an autonomous car means there is no steering wheel, one sits in the car, punch the destination and start chatting with your flame. But, that is not what it is. There are five stages of automation.

  • Zero level starts with humans doing the driving.
  • Level 1 is an Advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) to aid the human driver with either steering, braking, or accelerating, though not simultaneously. ADAS includes rearview cameras and features like a vibrating seat warning to alert drivers when they drift out of the travelling lane. It means some automation starts at this stage. Currently, an automated clutch change system is available (not the Automatic-transmission) which changes gears based on the car speed, without human intervention. Clutch in the car is operated automatically, but there is no clutch pedal.
  • Level 2 is an ADAS that can steer and either brake or accelerate simultaneously while the driver remains fully aware behind the wheel and continues to act as the driver.
  • Level 3 is an automated driving system (ADS) that can perform all driving tasks under certain circumstances, such as parking the car. (Parking assist) In these circumstances, the human driver must be ready to re-take control and is still required to be the main driver of the vehicle.
  • Level 4 is an ADS that can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment in certain circumstances. In those circumstances, the ADS is reliable enough that the human driver needn’t pay attention to driving.
  • Level 5 is the vehicle’s ADS that acts as a virtual chauffeur and does all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are passengers and are never expected to drive the car.

From the current information available the Level 5 is far away from reality. It is not about the autonomous system. But the new system will need changes in insurance policies and laws, legal aspects of driving and responsibilities in case of an accident.

Each of the companies has their vision for autonomous cars. I was surprised to find that Nissan Leaf, the Nissan EV is one of the leading Electric Vehicle, which also has added autonomous systems to some extent. What are those?

Driverless3

This button is called de-stress button. When you press this during driving on the highway, it does the following things.

  • It allows you to set a distance between the car ahead of you.
  • If required it comes to a full stop
  • When the traffic restarts, it starts driving back on its own!
  • It keeps the car at the centre of the lane while driving, and this is also done when there is a smooth curve, controlling the speed if required.

driverless4

The picture above is E-pedal. You can theoretically accelerate and brake with the same pedal. You press it; it goes boom! You start reducing pressure, it starts braking. But there is brake pedal available too, just in case! Even on the hilly roads, one can drive with a single pedal, if required.

There are many such features on these cars, but we will discuss them over a period. How are autonomous vehicles going to change many things? What benefit will they offer to humanity?

First and foremost is that the number of accidents can reduce. Accidental deaths will come down over a period. But there will be many legal changes needed. Laws will have to be made and passed by the highest authorities.

Another technical change is that these cars will generate significant and vital data. This data will have to be stored and processed online many times. It will develop a new field of data science. How this will change the car driving is anybody’s guess. Will it eliminate the jobs of many drivers? Only time will tell. One thing it has done. One company in Pune, a multinational, has hired several hundred people to process the visual data captured during testing by autonomous vehicles. The data is treated and uploaded into the database. So, some new types of jobs will get generated.

One new problem could come up. Both husband and wife will be relatively less stressed when they reach home in autonomous cars. So, they will have enough energy to restart the argument which had to be stopped as both went to office! But on a serious note, life on roads will be simpler over a period.

Future of the Auto Industry!

I have been writing Auto Industry in general, and EVs in particular. I will now add driverless vehicles in the subject list in future! I had my career in the auto industry and have dealt with Tatas, Mahindras, Maruti, Bajaj, Eicher, and the gang. I had an idea the other day why not bring the blogs written by me together. So here I got my six blogs;  I combined and presented them in the Microsoft’s new presentation software Sway!  I request all of you to “See” these on Laptop or a PC! If you have Chromecast connected to your large TV, use it to see on the TV directly from the mobile phone. You will enjoy the presentation. Happy viewing or “seeing”!

The matter, of course, is worth reading too! I will keep on adding to this presentation as I write more blogs in the future!

I am not sure how the presentation link will work in this blog on WordPress. Hence, I have included the link in the communication.

I am giving the link for the presentation. If it does not work on clicking please copy, paste and view!