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Sense, Plan, Act - Towards A Zero Fatality Safety Standard - Krishan Kohli

Today the level of safety awareness on the road is very high and situations are changing. We don't leave it just to Destiny. We don't leave it to God. - Krishan Kohli - Vehicle Dynamics Head, Continental Technology

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Mr. Krishan Kohli, Head of Vehicle Dynamics Unit, Continental

Adaptability is more than just an evolutionary success strategy. With our active chassis technology and electronic brakes, Continental leverages a wide range of interventions to adjust the vehicle’s behaviour to unknown factors such as the condition of the road surface, load changes, and cornering. The business unit “Vehicle Dynamics” provides highly advanced braking technology for all vehicle types. The technologies can be used in vehicle ranging from small cars all the way to transportation vehicles, and even motorcycles. Krishan Kohli, Head   - Vehicle Dynamics for Continental Automotive India talks to BW BusinessWorld about two and four wheeler vehicles safety and emerging automotive technologies.

We all know India is a very big market for 2-wheelers. So what kind of products and policies do we need to improve on the safety of 2-wheelers?

I represent Vehicle Dynamics Division at Continental in India and we have Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) technology, which is one of the popular technologies we are already marketing. We also have some other high-end technologies. Right now, for 4-wheelers, we have ABS, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) as well as AEB - Autonomous Emergency Braking solutions. For two-wheelers, we have ABS technology - both one-channel and two-channel ABS systems, as well as the Motorcycle Integral Brake system – (MIB) solution, which is advanced technology in India currently.

Talking about Policies - The good news is that the government is determined to ensure safety on our roads. Regulations on bikes that are 125cc and above are mandated to have an ABS solution. There is a certain lack of awareness about safety in the Indian market, which makes such government regulations and their implementation important. Road fatalities are a common occurrence, not just in India but globally as well. India saw 16 people killed every hour, translating to over 146,000 road deaths in 2017. The subject of road safety, thus, cannot be ignored. I think this regulation is the first step in the two-wheeler safety space. Starting April 2019, all bikes in the 125cc and above category will have ABS as standard. 

India is also witnessing a change in the type of vehicle users. One segment is, of course, the mass market, which needs a solution to get from point A to point B. However, there is also a growing segment that demands performance solutions. Harley Davidson in India is an example of a company benefiting from this trend. They are doing a lot of business in the country and have also established a local assembly centre. Triumph is also considering expansion, and KTM has formed a joint venture. BMW-TVS and other significant brands are entering India because there is a market that is evolving. This means the solutions for bikes over 125cc will keep growing. Currently, we have around 4 to 4.5 million units of ABS in the 125cc and above category. In five years, we will see more than 7 to 7.5 million units. This is a large market opportunity and we are very excited about this development. 

Tell us more about the challenges that India as a country with policies and with the government and with the education levels and large population faces on Road Safety.

One of the biggest challenges we had earlier was the lack of awareness of road safety. There is an old saying - Out of sight, out of mind. The importance of something is highlighted only when someone is asking for it. When something is not being asked or talked about, it is assumed that it is not required. So for a long time, there was no effort towards creating awareness or conversations about this, hence no steps were taken towards ensuring the same. 

However, over time, the awareness levels about road safety has increased. We do not leave the matter of safety in the hands of someone else, and we believe that it is our responsibility. The Indian government has begun to emphasize on this issue. 

It is also exciting that programs like NCAP are coming forward to support the cause in India. That brings an opportunity for companies like us as well. We join hands with NCAP and can demonstrate these safety technologies. We are expecting some decisions soon enough, and that will take safety to the next level. We have solutions that are available in the market to take the safety initiatives to the next level for 4-wheelers. We have ESC, which actually provides better traction control for all wheels. ABS is simply the starting point for safety. As you get to ESC your safety levels go up several notches. If the ESC Solution is used in an average sedan or SUV, the fatalities are reduced by 30 to 35% in a sedan, and by over 50% in an SUV. 

In 2-wheelers technology, as I mentioned earlier, both one-channel and two-channel ABS systems will be used. The more common technology, for now, will be one-channel ABS. In a couple of years, once that has gained growth, we can perhaps take it to the next level of MIB solutions. 

Tell us about Vision Zero of Continental. 

As an organization, Continental is committed to safety and we work on technologies that provide safety solutions. We work with partners like NCAP and other stakeholders to get the safety standard to zero fatalities. Towards this endeavour, we follow a strategy what we call ‘Sense.Plan.Act’. While driving, you have to keep your senses alert, and then you also have to plan ahead and you have to react based on the situation on the road. 

The "Sense.Plan.Act” strategy is about developing technologies that can do all of this.  We have developed technology solutions that are into sensing, and solutions that are into planning and acting.

The vehicle dynamic solutions are mostly in the ‘acting’   part but also in sensing to an extent, and then we have solutions like Advanced Driver Safety Assistance(ADAS.   With the Sense.Plan.Act strategy, we are working very strongly towards our goal called Vision Zero — evolving from best in braking to zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero accidents.  

So recently, Continental has been really active in the country with initiatives like the R&D Center in Gurugram, IIT Madras MOU. So what are the reasons that continental is investing so much in India?

India has been really gaining a lot of attention globally over the last few years and for the right reasons. 

The first reason is the market size. It is a massive market, and it is growing fast. In the last decade, we have seen all the macro drivers in place in the country. The economy is getting stronger, fiscal deficits are so far in control and the GDP has been growing at a strong 7%. The current government is focussing on consolidation and towards the consumer-driven economy. India is among the top 5 economies in the world. 

When we decided to explore the India market as a technology company, we saw a lot of opportunities. We saw growth in the country. We also saw an opportunity where we have the right technologies - not just in tires and rubber, but in automotive as well. 

We have established an engineering center in Bengaluru a couple of years ago. This is our complete engineering Technical Center - a global hub that focuses on both Indian and global markets, with over 3,000 people working here. We also announced an R&D center in Gurugram recently. And then we have the plant in Manesar, focusing on Vehicle Dynamics. 

We have another business unit – ADAS, which comes under the chassis and safety vertical. Here, we focus on the next level of Autonomous Driving. We have also recently signed an MOU with IIT Madras, where we agreed to work on future technologies. 

With some comparisons globally with China, some consolidation and some change in strategy is needed. The current government is focusing on consolidating and in this scenario, the question is  - how do we drive this into the consumer-driven economy? Now China has taken a step back. The new norm for growth is 6%, but India is now almost at 7.6%. So that is really a big development. 

What is the future of automotive tech and cyber technology in automotive?

Cyber technology is a big area, and is a big part of ADAS. If we look at the Global Automotive Megatrends, India follows Europe and Global markets. Electrification is one of the trends globally, which is now overlapping with connected vehicles, shared mobility and autonomous driving. 

So these are four trends - and they need a lot of technologies in place. We definitely need ESC; we need ADAS, and radar technologies etc. Eventually, our market will graduate to these technologies. Today, India is yet to fully focus on these technologies. Autonomous driving and electrification will soon become the focus in India. At Continental, we are working on these technologies already. With the MOU signed with IIT Madras, we will be working on some aspects of these technologies and we want to be there in full swing when these trends will shape up in India.

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