Moneycontrol PRO

Can Self-Driving Cars Run On Indian Roads? 

To get fully autonomous driving technology to the Indian car industry, brands and think tanks must navigate past a maze of legislative and infrastructural hurdles.

In the Indian context, self-driving cars are both a tantalising prospect and a dystopian nightmare. On one hand it can change the way we live, make our roads safer, reduce congestion and improve productivity, given that urban Indians, on an average, spend 1.5 hours more in daily traffic, as compared to those in neighbouring Asian countries. On the other hand, they can be potentially overwhelmed in highly congested driving scenarios in the country, and fail to function well in the absence of the infrastructural overhaul that is required to normalise their existence.

Whether we like it or not, autonomous technology is the next evolutionary step for cars. Several key manufacturers apart from Mercedes-Benz and Audi are in the race to become industrial leaders in AI-driven cars, with Apple, Tesla and Google at the very forefront.

Back in 2018, Mahindra & Mahindra showcased an autonomous tractor, stating that it intends to develop fully autonomous tractors in the future. Making a self-driving car in India requires several million km of real-world data, based on which an algorithm suited to Indian driving conditions can be created. At present no Indian automaker has announced plans of deploying AI tech anytime soon.

Indian Startups working on self-driving technology 

Tata Motors

Flux Auto

A Bangalore-based startup which is working on a modular self driving technology that turns normal trucks into a driverless truck. Some of the features include cruise control, lane keeping, collision avoidance and keeping a check on accidents.



Kolkata-based startup developed a self-driving prototype using a Celerio. Their aim is to make low-tech cars into modified futuristic cars on a low budget. They are currently looking for investments to take their operations to the next level.

Motherson Sumi Systems

Hi Tech Robotic Systemz

This Gurgaon-based startup launched a completely autonomous electric vehicle to ferry passengers during the 2016 Delhi Auto Expo. Named Novus-Drive, the vehicle lets passengers set the destination on the map.

Sundram Fasteners


This Bangalore-based startup is into designing autonomous electric cargo vehicles. Their focus is on customers outside India. The autonomous vehicle has currently been named – Mule.

Time for bold decisions and bold 
                  investments. It is time to prepare a 
                  globally competitive domestic 
                  supply chain.

Many times I am asked what about driverless car? Then  I say till the time I am transport minister, you  forget that. I will  not  allow  driverless  car  to  come  in  India. 


Tesla’s lead in the AI race comes from the fact that it mines the thousands of Tesla cars on the road for real-world data through its presently semi-autonomous “Autopilot” system. CEO Elon Musk claimed, last year, that Tesla was “very close” to achieving Level 5 autonomy, with the brand expected to deploy its fully autonomous software by the end of 2021.

Vivo Electronics

Along with Tesla, Waymo is the only other brand which has collected extensive amounts of data to become a leader in self-driving technology. Waymo is the only autonomous vehicle company with a public ride-hailing service that offers a completely driverless service in certain regions of the US.

Oppo Electronics India

Apple has invested $ 1 billion in Chinese ride sharing company Didi Chuxing Technology Co. to develop its self-driving technology. Apple is betting big on the electric revolution and has recruited more than 1000 employees to work on its autonomous vehicle plans.

Fosun India

Back in April, Huawei Technologies announced that they would invest $1 billion on researching self-driving technologies. They also claim they have surpassed Tesla in certain aspects, as its prototypes have cruised for over 1000km without human intervention

The 6 levels 
of  automation  according  to  SAE 

Level 0

These are your normal cars which do not have any technology that assist you in driving.

No Automation

Level 1

Some features such as cruise control, lane and parking assistance, where the driver is required to be in control at all times

Assisted Automation

Level 2

Here the vehicle is able to do more complex functions. The automated system can take full control of steering, braking and accelerating.

Partial Automation

Level 3

The car takes complete control of every aspect of driving, usually up to certain (low) speeds and can navigate through start-stop traffic.

Conditional Automation

Level 4

The driver is free to engage in other activities while the car takes you from your starting point to a pre-loaded destination. Certain optimal driving conditions needed.

High Automation

Level 5

Level 5-capable vehicles are fully autonomous. No driver is required behind the wheel at all. In fact, Level 5 vehicles might not even have a steering wheel or gas/brake pedals.

Full Automation



The Indian Motor Vehicles Act 1988 does not have any provision for autonomous driving. Despite a proposal to amend the act having been circulated in 2018, the matter remains unchanged in India. The law does not even permit testing of autonomous vehicles in India. The act will need an overhaul to allow licenses for trials, safety guidelines, etc.


A shift to autonomous cars will mean huge job losses, and this is not something the government can endorse. Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Highways had publicly said he won't allow driverless cars to ply on Indian roads. According to Gadkari, if driverless cars become a reality, it would lead to job loss of 1 crore people.


India’s road infrastructure in its present state is not suitable for self-driving cars. Compared to western countries, India roads are always overflowing with traffic, especially in the metros. Another cause for concern is the inconsistent signage and markings on roads which make deciphering the signs hard for sensors.

Civic Sense

One of the main causes of accidents in India is the lack of adherence to traffic rules. Affinity to break traffic rules can be a huge hindrance to driverless cars. Reckless driving behavior is not something a driverless car can preempt. The occasional animals on the roads is also another stinging issue.


Shortcomings in inter-connected car technology also hinder the progress. Real-time data transmission is critical to ensuring a successful and safe implementation of autonomous driving technology. Network connectivity is still a challenge in India. According to a report by KPMG India was the second-least prepared country for driverless cars.