'We can't expect adoption of smartcars to be as accelerated as smartphones'
In an email interaction with Sandeep Kishore, corporate vice- president, HCL Technologies, FE’s Vikram Chaudhary learns about how convergence as an idea has the power to change the business model of the auto industry and why the adoption of smart cars cannot be as accelerated as smartphones. According to Kishore, cars, which for decades have been looked at as a capital expenditure, may no longer be a capital expense, thanks to-pay-per-use business models. And driverless cars can provide the options of car-pooling. Excerpts:
How is the idea of convergence influencing the auto market in India? How is it different from the rest of the world?
Convergence is a global phenomenon. India is no exception. The level of new technologies in a given segment of car is the same across the globe. Most high-end cars have a host of new technologies to improve the “in-car-experience”. However, entry level cars, which are more prevalent mostly in emerging economies such as India, are yet to adopt all the new technologies. Even here, it is a matter of time before these technologies become essential features even in entry level cars. Especially with smartphone technologies available at around 1% or less of the car value.
Leading technology companies such as Google and Apple are integrating devices and interactive applications in automobiles. Do you think after smartphones, it’s time for us to own smart cars? How will this impact our lifestyle?
Smart cars are definitely a possibility but in the medium term. We need to understand that the rapid adoption of smartphones has been possible due to the affordability of the device (Rs 20,000 device versus at least a Rs 20 lakh car). Hence, we can’t expect the adoption of smart cars to be as accelerated as smartphones.
Having said this, smart cars are definitely something to look forward to. Take Google’s driver- less car, for instance. This car can be used in a whole lot of different scenarios. We can use it on a pay-per-use basis for travel within a business/residential district, for car-pooling, etc. without the hassle of capital expenditure. And prevalent use of such systems can ease traffic situation in densely populated cities and we can move towards a greener and cleaner environment.
We have seen a great amount of convergence happening in the last decade in the space of personal entertainment. Can the same be expected between auto and IT?
Absolutely. The end consumer looks forward to having the same kind of experience across all devices. Any new technology — cloud-based app, natural user interface (NUl), etc.—which has become a new de facto standard, would be expected in any other device the consumer owns or uses, whether it’s his phone, his tablet, his car or any other device. This underlying idea is the basis of convergence across different industries.
Both the auto and IT industries are in the red globally for various reasons. Do you think these initiatives can change the scenario?
Yes. Convergence as an idea has the power to change the business model of the auto industry We can now look forward to improved experiences, cleaner and greener environments. Cars, which for decades have been looked at as a capital expenditure, may no longer be a capital expense, thanks to pay-per-use business models. Driverless cars can provide the options of car-pooling. We can now dream of less congested roads, better traffic regulation in cities, environment friendly cars and better health and lifestyle of people.
How is your work on the “gesture-based technology system in automobiles” going on?
In the last few years, there has been an amazing amount of development in voice-recognition and NUI. There are a whole lot of improved algorithms that have made it possible to develop better and smarter apps. A whole lot of simple gestures like a switch- on/switch-off, check mail, read mail, send mail, etc, are now available in cars.
HCL has a centre of excellence dedicated to NUI. The focus of this centre is to come up with use cases that will be relevant across different industries, further paving the way for convergence across industries.