Don’t Break the Flyovers!

Take decisions in life from long term view! It’s your life after all!

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Our personal life and the life around us has many things in common. In both cases, issues crop up, they are studied, they are discussed and decisions arrived at. In retrospect, we realize that better decisions could have been made, finer solutions could have been found. As the saying goes, the hind sight vision is always 20/20! Had we been able to take decisions closer to 20/20, things could have been better! Mistakes happen in both public and personal life. The end result is complications and stress. This thought gave me an idea of comparing these two aspects together.  

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In Pune’s newspaper, I saw a photograph of the perpetual traffic jam on the flyover system near the engineering college. The city planners built an elaborate system of flyovers to overcome the traffic snarls in that area. I have read somewhere that by building fly overs, planners tend to push the traffic snarls in to the next traffic junction where we have traffic signals. But in this case, something else happened; just after the fly overs, there are traffic signals and the traffic gets choked there itself, even after flyovers were commissioned, not much has really changed. At the next junction, which is signal free, there are no traffic snarls. 

Life is always in WIP (work in progress) mode. It means that at every stage we keep on processing information that reaches our brain. We of course know that our brain is the world’s most advanced and fastest Super Computer. All new data is processed, churning takes place, information is sent back and forth to the stored database/ information in the brain. The result is arrived at, on the basis this churning and processing. This happens so many times during the course of the day, that we tend to take decisions but we process results based on priorities. Sometimes our priorities clash, sometimes end results clash.  Humans tend to push certain issues under the rug or come up with a temporary solution. These solutions are reached, based on the analysis of the available data, to solve the issues based on current situation. Most of the times, humans don’t take long term view into consideration and this action sometimes creates problems, later.  

Did you any similarity in the above two paragraphs? Indeed, there is similarity and we tend to put issues on back burner, we sometimes ignore problems. City related issues are handled by the humans,  in a very similar way. This affects large number of people in the society. But in our individual cases incorrect resolutions affect individual lives directly. What needs to be done such cases? For any issue or a problem, overall solution needs to be considered and not a short-term solution.  

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I have displayed a google map of the area in Pune, where there are traffic snarls, after new flyover system came up!  The Red circle indicates the snarl area. If we consider the traffic arriving from 4 to 1, we will know the real problem. The new flyover system helps people to cross the railway line in problem area. In fact, all four points do the same thing. But point 1 has been closed for this crossing long time back. Point 3 has been closed recently. Point 2 and 4 help in crossing the railway line, but these crossings pass through narrow or congested roads. In last few years, besides traffic from 4 to 1 coming in red circle, traffic has been pouring in through the new road, from airport, parallel to the river. All this indicates that problem definition and solution did not go hand in hand. Huge traffic volume comes to the red circle area. The solution should have been to not bring traffic to snarl area and divert it via different routes. But the studies were not proper and hence solutions were incorrect. What is the solution? I don’t know. In Mumbai some such issue about a flyover was resolved by breaking a particular flyover to be replaced by another one, which resolved the issue. We have similar problem in Pune University circle area. In University circle area, one could see from the beginning, that solution was not correct. On top of the wrong decisions, judgement about future traffic density were also grossly under estimated. End result, the same. In peak hours, a group of policemen is required to manually handle the traffic chaos!  

In our lives, we also misjudge many things. Sometimes, we make wrong investments. Sometimes we misjudge our future requirements at home as well as finances. Sometimes, we do not take decisions and let the problems linger. I have seen this happening in people about their health. They try to ignore issues or postpone the checkups. A friend I met after many years, told me that he is afraid to get himself regularly checked up by doctors. I asked him the reason. He said, ” I am afraid that some health issue may get detected”. I said, that is the reason for getting yourself checked.  

In public domain if we make a wrong decision, we can find different solutions, including from above example, break the flyover and build a new one. This creates inconvenience and costs a lot of money. No individual is directly troubled with this solution. But in our own case, we and family are the direct sufferers. Wrong career moves, wrong investment decisions, involvement with wrong type of people, are described as errors or wrong decisions, in retrospection.  But they take their toll!

Friends, try and learn the art of visualizing things about future, while taking life’s decisions. We have enough information stored in our brain, learn to utilize it correctly  while we decide something. When we have to take major decisions in life, sleep over it before taking the final decision, ask friends and mentors. Don’t feel shy to take advise. Ultimately, it’s your life!  

Smart Cities or People!

It is the people who are going to make cities Smart!

Indian government has started a mission to create large number of smart cities in India. It’s a great initiative and a forward-looking idea. Unless we plan something like this, with a strong initiative from governments, things will never work out. I look forward to see how these things work. I am writing this from the angle of devils’ advocate. Will such initiatives really work in India?

What are the major initiatives planned for smart cities? Water management, waste management, environment, planning of cities, buildings, IT and communications, Security and Safety, Smart power grids, clean energy.  This shows that none of these things were planned in a systematic manner before. Yes, there has been a terrific improvement all over India in all above mentioned areas but hopefully now it will be more systematic.

If we look at the meaning of Smart, it is defined in different ways. If it is about a person – clean, tidy, and well dressed. Or having or showing a quick-witted intelligence. SMART is a best practice framework for setting goals. A SMART goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. To me this last definition  fits the “Smart Cities Project” perfectly. The aims and goals have been set appropriately by using this definition. But to me a city is made up by its physical assets both new and historical, its water bodies, trees and environment. These to me are tangible things. Its culture, its people. Government agencies can plan for everything else but not for people, their way of thinking, their way of public behaviour, their way of self-discipline when in public or otherwise. These are the intangible assets of a city.

As I live in Pune, I will share whatever little I know about implementation of Smart City project in Pune. I think Pune is doing good in terms transport infrastructure. Newer, better roads and flyovers are planned to reduce congestion. A new ring road is also planned. New international airport is planned at Purandar near Pune. Pune Metro project is expected to be completed in next 3 to 4 years. Experience from all over India says that Metro projects are reasonably successful in every city in India. These projects have successfully made the change in the mindset of people who use them. People behave in disciplined manner while using Metro. Cleanliness is maintained, people don’t cross rail tracks! Why this is happening is for psychoanalysts to find. Why people’s behavior changes by just entering a different transportation system, at least I do not know.

Corporation is still struggling to implement BRTS system, it has serious deficiencies in execution though concept is good. Even after several years and a few trips to foreign jaunts by politicians to “understand” BRTS, best practices are not being implemented or thought of. What about people? The BRTS system has dedicated road lanes reserved for the buses. But Smart people, on their bikes and in their cars,  just barge into those lanes without fear. People are getting killed due to this.

Pune is lucky to have water bodies all around. Unless rains are very deficient, we never have water shortages. Are we smart enough using water correctly, the answer is no. We wash our cars using running water, when we wash clothes by hand, we keep water taps running, under the name of fresh water, we throw away drinking water stored in homes, everyday in the morning. When we water our plants in our balcony’s, we pour excess water that overflows, which in turn is dumped on cars parked under the balconies. My friend Vijay said that we are a dumb society, I slightly disagree. We are a “we care two hoots society”! We can be smart selectively. Corporation has drives, to remove illegal encroachments by hawkers. Even in the days when there were no cell phones, the corporation officers bribed by hawkers, would inform hawkers in advance of the drive and very few hawkers would be caught or evicted. They would be back at the same place next day. Aren’t we smart?

Smart power grids, clean energy, smart planning is possible because there will not be much people interaction. Smart signals can help smoothen the traffic, provided we follow the signals. We are smart people, if we have a blocked road ahead of us, then two- wheeler users go on foot paths and rush ahead! Really smart! This morning I  saw an interesting thing. A lady was being trained on a car owned by a Motor Training School. The instructor was sitting next to her. They reached a traffic signal and the signal was Red, the lady was slowing down but the instructor told her to drive through. So much for the training schools! These schools supposedly teach people to drive the car. It was 7.30 in the morning; I waited to see how many people follow signals. 95% jumped the signals. This is smartness, why waste time in the morning when there is no traffic?

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Some good results are already seen, there are smart bill boards everywhere informing public that we are a smart city. Is it? But nobody has told me. There is a cycle sharing application where authorities have made cycles available to people. These have electronic locks. These can be used and money is paid by using an app on cell phone. Payment is done by using PayTm. In last three months, Pune has shown that 3,00,000 trips have been taken by people. The idea behind this is to encourage last mile usage of fuel less systems, like cycles. It is definitely encouraging.

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Compared to cities in India, most cities in developed world are “smart cities”. Why is this so? It is because people are sensible, they need not be smart. People are trained to follow rules and discipline right from childhood. In my previous blog, I had written about “I don’t care” attitude we have, when it comes to public behavior. We do not take cleanliness and discipline seriously. In cleanliness, Pune is much ahead of many cities in India. When we talk of clean city, it is not about roads being cleaned every day.  Dumping garbage on roads and then sweeping and putting in dumpsters is what we do today. Instead, people should put their garbage in dumpsters, directly. That is smart!

Friends, government is doing its job by creating great infrastructure by planning and proposing systematic things for smart cities, to me this is the tangible side of any city; but unless we contribute by being proactive, self-disciplined and smart, unless we ride the crest of these intangibles, our cities will never become “Smart Cities”! It is the intangibles, that are going to make Cities Smart!

Do nothing holiday!

“Not doing anything holiday” is the doing holiday!

Why do we take holidays? There are different reasons for this. The working people take a holiday to come out of their day to day grind and to rejuvenate. Sometimes, we take holidays to visit relatives, to attend family functions. Other times we take a holiday to visit places, see things. But sometimes, we should take a holiday only for the sake of taking a holiday. But is it necessary that every time we travel, we should do something, see some places, perform some activity? Well  at least we took a ” do nothing holiday” for the first time and it was fun. One thing that is my favourite on any holiday is to watch human interactions along with nature!

We were planning for a holiday in Himalayas. We were trying the eastern part of India and but in the end somehow, we finalized on Manali. We booked the vacation for a week and had decided to take it easy. Except for arranging the travel logistics, we did not bother to find details about Manali, except for weather details. This was essential, as in mountains weather can be fickle and it can become cold. We geared us with woolens; our planning was on the dot as weather turned out to be the same as what we had  encountered in Alps, last September, rainy and cold, at least for a few days.  

During this holiday, we had decided not to do much of research so that we could get some surprises when we reached the destination. We had some information about Manali. Our some knowledge about Kullu Manali was 30 years old, when our  son Sachin had come here for trekking, while he was in school. As we landed at Kullu airport, it was a pleasant looking small airport surrounded by mountains.

When we came out with our baggage, we were surprised to see only 5/6 cars that had come to pick up travelers, around 30 of us. How others were going to move further was a mystery. The driver said that the distance to our destination was about 45 kms. In his inimitable way he said, that we it will  take 1 ½ hrs. We took two hrs. Courtesy, very narrow and bad, bad roads. Same distance was covered in one hour and twenty minutes on return journey though the driver was not as brisk. This was because we started our journey at 5.30  am

Manali in April presented us with snow clad peaks, cold weather, sunshine and rain to our surprise. Of course, it also gave us local Puri Bhaji and Parathas. When it was not cloudy, weather was divine though we had to wrap ourselves in caps, mufflers and jackets. Our main plan was sitting on the lawns and soaking in the sun and the nature. We did take a few photos and a couple of videos but the main agenda was to absorb the sights and whatever we could absorb from the nature. What more do we want in life when you get beautiful nature, lovely weather and surroundings, birds chirping; add to this our usual reading stuff!

Please keep volume high to hear the birds chirping!

We knew that Manali is famous for trekking, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding and its snow. We found another adventure activity there. At Solan Valley, we saw a couple of hundred three-wheel cross country bikes. People take cross country rides on these bikes, with a driver. Behind the driver, there is two-seater bench where parents and kids sit to enjoy the ride! We were also lucky to see the light snow fall. The flowers in bloom at our resort were beautiful.  

Besides surprises of Manali, we enjoyed our human interaction. We met a doctor couple from Mumbai. Young folks with their 6/7-year old child and their mother, who needed support even to climb down the stairs. But their enthusiasm was to be seen to believed. They had driven down from Mumbai and total driving distance was going to be about 4000 km. Driving this distance with their mother who had physical difficulty in moving around, must be tough. The mother would stay in the hotel all the time when the gang went for trekking and other activities!  

We met a couple from Pune, our age group, with their retarded daughter who must have been about 40 years of age. They were on circuitous tour from Delhi to Dharamsala to Manali and back. An arduous journey by road for anybody. But their enthusiasm and the way they handled their daughter’s needs was amazing.  

Best interaction with people, happened at the Pune Airport when we came back. We hired an Ola Cab. When we sat in the cab, the driver said that it was his first trip. I asked him why he started so late during the day; we hired the Cab at 6.30 pm. He said that it was his first trip with Ola! We both gave congratulations to him and wished him great business in future! He was so naïve, that he was unaware of basic things. When the trip started, I gave him the OTP I had received from Ola. He asked me what to do with the OTP. I said that he had to key it in. He asked me where to punch the OTP? I naturally did not know. Then I suggested to ask him to check with another Ola driver. It was finally done. He was very helpful and at home he put our bags in the lift for us, in fact he forced us to wait on the side! 

We had a pleasure of meeting one couple from Nasik. Husband was an engineer, and his wife a painter. We naturally found some common friends. We spent lovely time with each other. A couple of times, we had local lunch together.  

As planned, did we not do anything? We did a lot of things which we should be doing. We interacted a lot with people. We did not rush into things. Manali “activities” were anyway not suitable for our age group. We soaked into the nature, enjoyed the surroundings. Eating and purchasing was only incidental but trying local stuff was the main aim. One so called activity we did was going to the Spa! That 90 minute activity was very relaxing but so was our “not doing anything”! The 90 minutes in Spa gave me deep insight about Manali, local life and surroundings, from my masseur! This “not doing anything” bug has caught up with us and I am sure our next holiday will also be similar.  

 

Checklists

Checklists! Do you make them?

My dear friend Vijay, sent me a book by Dr. Atul Gawande, “Checklist Manifesto” and I read it right away. Dr. Gawande thought of the idea about the book, based on the errors/ mistakes that happen during surgeries. http://atulgawande.com/book/the-checklist-manifesto/

These errors are sometimes avoidable, or some steps are simply missed out. Then there are some issues/problems that may crop up unplanned, during or post-surgery. In our lives also, such things can happen. But in my experience, I have found that issues/problems can crop up also because “problem statements” are not defined correctly.

Dr. Gawande has also discussed examples from construction industry as well as aviation industry. As usual, everywhere when humans are involved actions, decisions and reactions become too individual. Different persons react differently to the same problem. Additionally, real experts in any field can have large egos and/or may be over confident, about their abilities to take “correct” steps or decisions than those suggested by others. This sometimes leads to disastrous situations. In surgery for example, in rare cases it does happen that wrong patient may come on the table, wrong side of the patient may get operated upon, left instead of right! Dr. Gawande felt that such and many other errors, mistakes are avoidable by introducing “Check Lists”.

How to define a Check List? A Check List, is a list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, are used as a reminder; this is to be checked in sequential manner. In anything and everything that we do, there can be a check list. What is the need for this, you may ask! It is needed or not needed based on one’s view point. I am an expert in my field, I have been doing this for ages, why do I need a check list? But we forget that this is not the only thing that we do in life. Sometimes we may be in a hurry, sometimes we may be doing a few additional things in parallel! Sometimes we may have some other important stuff going on in our mind. All this can lead to avoidable errors. Ok! Check List may not be cure all for all the problems in the world! But they do help.

During surgery, many a time, antibiotics are given to the patient. The correct time for it to be effective is sixty minutes before start of surgery. It can so happen that correct procedure is followed, and the antibiotic is given 60 minutes before the starting time of surgery. But Surgery can get delayed sometimes as previous one may not be over. 60 minutes can become 120 minutes! So, the checklist for giving antibiotics during & before Surgery says, ask this question before patient is given anesthesia! This means that patient is already on the table and chances of delay are minimal! 

In every situation Professional, Personal, home, office or for that matter anywhere, problems do crop up! Creating check list for anything and everything may not be necessary but can be useful. When we work, we do create our checklist for things to be done and how to do. We have our own methods. With computers and cell phones creating and managing check lists has become much easier.

I can tell you that in today’s times why check list is essential. Maybe in day to life checklist maybe same as to do list!  We are now expected to link our Aadhar card to Bank Accounts, Credit card Account, Cell phone numbers, Investments and so on!  It is mandatory to do so before 31st March. Linking these is not as easy as it sounds. So, making a check list for these makes sense. We have passports, licenses, paying the bills and many such things to do. Wont check lists help us tracking them?     

I will share an incident where not having proper check list, could have led to a disaster. A Boeing was flying on Toronto- Ottawa-Vancouver route. When it got down at Ottawa for quick check for the long-distance flight, dip stick was used to check fuel volume as an additional check since pilots had some doubts about instruments on board.  Thumbs up was given and flight took off. At approximately half the distance, the fuel alert indicators started buzzing for all tanks. The theory is that a plane can glide 16 times the height at which it is flying, without fuel. The pilot sent Mayday signal. They were flying at the height of 7 miles. Luckily, he was from the same area where this incident took place. He remembered an abandoned airport about 70 miles away. He took the clearance for landing and was cleared asap. It was a Sunday and at the airport some fun stuff was going on including car rallies. Suddenly, the guys below saw a huge plane coming in for landing. People ran helter-skelter and somehow moved out of the harms way. The expert pilot managed to land safely. Inquiry was conducted, and it was found that there was an error in using dipstick. Those were days when people were just switching from FPS to MKS system. Dipstick was FPS but people measuring thought that it was MKS, so they gave green signal to the flight. Hence the issues started at midway distance of the flight! Checklist about type of dip stick to use would have avoided this error.   

I feel that in life there are two types of lists, checklist and to do list. It is possible that we may swap these two lists in personal life. Check list is detailing of to do list. Or it could be doing certain procedure or following a process; we need to have a checklist. I have seen an accident almost happening in front of my eyes, while working in factory. An electrician was working on a 440-volt circuit. I asked the electrician, who was working on the issue, if he had followed the checklist. He said of course. He used a big screw driver to open a screw in the box; in an instant the screwdriver melted fully. Though he told me that he had followed the check list he had not done it. There is a simple check; when working on high voltage circuit, remove the fuses for that area and keep them in your pocket. This can avoid such incidents. The electrician almost got electrocuted.

Check lists followed are mainly for safety and to ensure quality of work. I am sure women know how to mentally use them during  cooking. Though cooking looks easy, it is the proportion of ingredients, timing, sequence, temperature and many variables that need to be checked all the time. Ladies look to do things automatically, but they do have their checklists.

Friends, in our day to day lives also, we have many things which we should follow. There are birthdays, anniversaries. Then there are marriages, opening ceremonies. There are events galore in our lives. There are deaths and funerals. Of course, we are busy with our work and family and our financial planning. So, it is a good idea to have to do lists/ cum checklists. All of these points may not be life threatening but they do have effect on relationships. Ultimately, series of mistakes and errors with same group of people can lead to catastrophic results. Try forgetting your wife’s  birthday for two consecutive years! You know what I mean!

Social behavior

I have always been thinking how a society forms, matures, and evolves. The basis for a good society is faith, empathy and accommodation. These points have nothing to do with the crime in a society. Because I feel that crime is an aberration to any society. When we say that a certain society is a good society, it is how the majority in the society behave or react to a situation.

When we travel to any place we are first exposed to roads, traffic, and public behaviour of that place. It is roads, traffic, public behaviour on roads that defines the first impression of the society, it can be orderly or disorderly. In Pune where I live, the city is supposed to be one of the better cities in India, people are generally of helping nature and soft. But what happens to them on the roads?  I am not talking of road rage! Road rage is a different matter altogether. Road rage is triggered by an event, howsoever small. Yesterday evening we were driving on a crowded road and traffic was slower than usual. Suddenly I found that some people on bikes going ahead driving on footpaths! It was not a case of random nut but there were many who were driving on footpath. Why do people do this? If they are in a hurry why not start a little early so as to reach on time.

Motorcycle guy standing at right angle to the traffic direction.

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As a society are we not trained to follow rules? Is it in our education? Is it in our culture? Or is it in our DNA? I feel that it is combination of all the aspects. I sense that the wrong elements in our DNA become more active when we are in our own city or country! Or is it related to implementation of laws? But will there be a specific law saying that people are NOT allowed to drive their bikes on footpath? Some are written rules and some are unwritten rules. I also feel that 150 years of British Rule has distinctly changed our DNA partially. The civil disobedience movement, during freedom struggle has got imbibed in our minds. As society we feel that rules made by the Govt are to be broken!

In a vast and not so rich a country like India there are issues. Availability of toilets at home and in public places has been a big problem. Current government is encouraging people by giving financial aid, making laws so that people who do not have toilets at home, though they can afford it, cannot fight an election! But how is this changing the situation? Some changes are seen but one still reads stories of people using their fields for their ablutions even though they have toilets at home! Why? Because it is manly to do so! I see on Mumbai Pune expressway people will relieve themselves in open just 30 meters ahead of public urinals! What is it? Is it brain fed? Is it I don’t care attitude? I get a feeling that DNA issues get to the top of the list.

Helmet less people

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Road traffic is one area where it is almost impossible to understand behavior of people in Pune. There is a Supreme Court ruling that wearing helmets is mandatory while driving two wheelers. But we don’t wear helmets. The argument is it’s our head, how is Government concerned? Statistics show that 99% of the deaths in two wheeler accidents are of those, who were not wearing helmets. Supreme Courts be damned!

Last week there was an incident at Pune airport. A young guy went to meet his lady friend who was transiting through Pune airport. If you buy a viewing gallery ticket at any airport, you will not be allowed to enter transit area. This gentleman wanted to meet this friend so what did he do. He had travelled a few days before to Delhi. He modified the same ticket to make it look like a valid ticket. Using the modified ticket, he entered the airport but was later caught with the modified ticket by security. Looks like brain fed is the latest norm.

Caution  board on Mumbai Pune Expressway

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Its sad to see such boards on expressway! On roads having medians, anywhere in the world, you are supposed to drive on the correct side of the road but in our great city of Pune people will drive in the reverse direction upto the distance of one kilometer to avoid a detour of a couple of kilometers. So much for the fuel conservation. Mind you these are people from all strata of the society.

Women’s rally

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On Women’s day bike rally on 8th March, an official event, there were so many ladies taking part it was amazing. This was an official event but organizers forgot to tell the ladies that they should wear helmet if they want to take part in the rally. In their eagerness to get dressed up, they put on various fancy head gears but very few put on helmets. What was the signal sent to younger generation? Fortunately these days all bike companies when they advertise their bikes,  make sure that the person driving the bike is wearing a helmet!

Coming back to my query, why we behave this way as a society? One thing is for sure that the implementation of our laws is lax and on top of that there are corrupt policemen. Strong implementation shows the results all over the world! Dr Chauhan, a staunch Khalistan movement backer, used to live in London in 80’s. When Indian Government requested the British Govt to stop Dr. Chauhan from making inflammatory statements, he was just called to office and was told that if he does not behave, he will be simply deported. From that day Dr. Chauhan’s mouth was shut! Our brethren behave differently when they land at Singapore! Why? The reason is strong implementation of laws. In general world over maybe 10% want to break the rule but in our case this % goes to 40/50%. With our large population handling law breakers is also not easy because of sheer volume.

Uber self-drive vehicle

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Uber’s Sweeny, in charge of driver less cars project was asked, where will Uber introduce such vehicles? He said, “US and Europe are typical example of organized traffic so we will first try there”. When asked about some larger countries in Asia, he just smiled!

Any solutions? Suggestion, anyone? I feel that unless there is a mass drive started, to involve anybody and everybody, it will be very difficult to change! Politically, we see that the whole nation is getting driven towards development, away from cast, creed politics. Do we need a national leader to take us towards modern developed organized society, so that Uber’s of this world would not give a smile, when asked if they would come to India for trials of driverless cars?