Self-driving technology has been pioneered by giants like Uber, Google who have dedicated units to bring the technology into trucks, Otto(now Uber ATG) and Waymo, respectively and carmakers like Tesla are trying to enter the autonomous trucks. These pioneers use expensive kits which are not compatible with all vehicles. This means that the tech developed by them would be unaffordable for most of the world’s trucking bunch.
To eliminate these glitches is exactly what an Indian start-up is working towards.
Flux Auto is a young, 16 person, Bangalore based start-up that wants to make self-driving technology available for truck drivers by making it affordable. To do so, the start-up is making efforts to develop a self-driving tech that can be retrofitted to any kind of truck at a reasonable price.
To achieve this goal, Flux has to customize its own self-driving technology that is different from the one that the big players use. The start-up does not use the really expensive Lidar- Light Direction and Ranging sensors. It is estimated that Lidar costs about $7,500, an amount that is costly for many truckers and it is only one of the components.
While the competition is focusing on LIDAR technology which is very expensive and processing heavy (due to a lot of unneeded data), our vision algorithms can be used with any cheap cameras and has a much quicker response time. This drives down our cost and in turn, the cost for the customer as well, all while having similar levels of accuracy as a LIDAR system,” Flux Auto founder Pranav Manpuria explained.
We’re using cameras along with other sensors — sonar, radar, ultrasonic, etc. — to understand everything that’s happening around the vehicle, and make decisions based on that,” Manpuria said. “We’re developing our entire tech stack as an after market accessory. This allows us to target the massive market of already existing commercial vehicles.”
The technology is developed to handle lane keeping, cruise control, collision avoidance. The main intention is to take the strain off drivers and help to make journey more relaxed.
Flux wants to sell the product between the $3,000 to $4,500 range which would not have been possible on the inclusion of Lidar.
Flux faces other challenges such as India not being an exactly suitable for autonomous vehicles. The chaos that is Indian roads drive engineers crazy trying to develop self-driving cars that are efficient enough to handle Indian roads. And also the Indian transportation minister is inclined to ban autonomous as they would pose a threat to jobs!
Flux initially was testing on cars, but it has just equipped its first truck with a prototype system for the next stage of testing. Flux wants to deploy it’s technology on 2,500 vehicles in the next twelve months. For this the start-up might shift it’s office to the U.S. to continue its development in the future.
I’ve been very interested in self-driving and it’s benefits for a while now. However, working on a self driving car didn’t seem appealing since car owners would be reluctant to spend a few thousand dollars on technology where the benefits to them aren’t that obvious,” he said.
“Where this technology makes the most sense, and can have the biggest impact is the trucking industry — and the benefits we provide with our technology are worth an investment into it by truck owners,” said Manpuria.