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The second panel discussion, as part of the Apollo-CV Awards 2017, focused on the growing use of electronics in CVs.

Panelists (L to R)

Kaaushik Madhavan, Director, Automotive & Transportation, Frost & Sullivan.

Dattatreya Saste, Advisor & Technical Consultant, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

A Sriniwas, Senior Vice President – Product Development & Technology, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra.

Ramashankar Pandey, Managing Director, Hella India Lighting. .

Bhushan Mhapralkar, Editor, Commercial Vehicle magazine.


V G Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Avanteum Advisors

Highlighting the OE perspective, Kaushik Madhavan, in response to V G Ramakrishnan’s question on industry movement towards digitisation, mentioned that much depends on the jump the OE industry is ready for when it comes to digitisation. “We will have initial regulations, hybridisation, etc., to play a key role in the digital sphere. Suppliers will also play a key role,” he averred. Drawing attention to the use of signboards by STUs in buses, and the setting up of a control room to monitor buses on the road, Kaushik expressed, “Fleet management services like DigiSense from Mahindra are reflective of the successful development of (digital) platforms.” “These,” he added,”can be used across vehicle segments.” Stressing upon the rising use of fleet management services to track movement and driver behaviour, Kaushik stated, “Driver has become an integral part of the entire CV ecosystem, and dgitisaion is helping him to realise better efficiency.” Kaushik also drew attention to how digitisation is aiding service compliance. “In 2014, in Europe, we were trying to understand what is going to happen with EuroVI. We asked the drivers about the truck getting complicated with SCR. We are now travelling on the same route, and the tone will be set for digitisation in CVs,” explained Kaushik. He did not forget to mention that the aggregator business model is picking up; leading to many looking at optimising loads.

A Sriniwas, from the product stand point, said that a lot of work will happen in India and the world over in the case of driver awareness. “Initiatives like driver training and monitoring will gain importance among other things,” he added. Sriniwas linked driver behaviour with digitisation in CVs by the means of sensors. He mentioined that trucks are today equipped with sensors, and the need is to use them to get data to be able to work out an intervention.

Rising electronics in CVs

Dattatreya Saste expressed that 25 years ago, as a convenor for deciding auto policies, he had estimated the electronic content to be about 30 per cent. “In cars, it has come to that level. In CVs it is expected to rise quickly,” he said. Stating that safety of women and night drivers ranks high on the agenda of the ministry, Saste opined, “When it comes to roads we are at a primitive stage.” “We are trying to create national registry for drivers. In the case of public transport, we are talking about multi-modal transport. While there is a need to upgrade enforcement, the ministry is co-ordinating; and is keen to dispel the confusion between the tasks carried out by the traffic police and other policing agencies,” he added. Stressing upon his ministry offering full support to digitisation, Saste averred that a big impetus will be laid on ‘Intelligent Transport System’ and vehicle electronics.

Ramashanker Pandey subtly changed the course of the discussion by expressing digitisation as not just about technology, but also about electrification, and the huge computing power the world has. “Commercial vehicles will be early adapters of it,” he added. Stating that companies are tackling challenges by working in isolation, and forming an impression that they have a good understanding of the customer, Pandey called for a need to collaborate. “It is not about product sale, but about the whole business model. Today, an OEM calls for a product, the payment for which will be done if he values it. The rules of the game will change, much like they have in the IT world and the mobile phone sector. Supplier collaboration will start from the product development stage and extend all the way to the release stage. Within five years, collaborative approach will assume importance. If one company wants to do everything on its own, digitisation will be a very costly affair,” he explained. Pandey touched upon a survey undertaken by his company lasting five years on safety. It turned into a revolution almost, and the takeaway was that safety will need to be driven not just by regulation, but by the industry collaborating. “It is a new game for us,” said Pandey.

The ecosystem

Speaking on the issue of industry buzz, and regulation driven digitisation, Bhushan drew attention to having driven three-to-four ‘digital’ CVs in 2016. “This was not the case earlier,” he said, pointing at the change taking place in the Indian CV industry. “We see a reflection of change in these vehicles,” he added. Stating that the comparison (in the case of digitisation) is drawn between a passenger vehicle and a CV, he averred, “the use of electronics in passenger vehicles and CVs is completely different. If passengers are looking at different outcomes from use of electronics, in CVs it is looked upon differently.” “In CVs,” he added, “electronics is enhancing comfort, safety and better operability.” Mentioned Pandey, “The glamour of electrics in a passenger vehicle is completely different. The rear view camera system, for example, that is needed in a mining truck is completely different from what a car driver will need on the road. The nature of digitisation is completely different, and the value and cost are also completely different.”

Responding to Ramakrishnan’s query on the issue of understanding the customer, Bhushan stated that dealers are going to play an important role. “The customer will need to come close to the OEM at the aftersales level as far as the lifecycle of the vehicle is concerned. The other part is fuel efficiency and comfort. Both these will add to safety. We are still at a regulatory level. The comfort part, which is so prominent in European trucks, is yet to set in. It is coming,” he added. Drawing attention to Intelligent Transport System (ITS) as a means to vehicle-to-vehicle communication , Kaushik Madhavan opined that vehicle to infrastructure communication is also important. “It is already happening in Europe. Volvo is already talking about platooning, which will play an important role in improving efficiency and productivity,” he added.

Digitisation driven multi-modal transport

Touching upon multi-modal transport, Kaushik Madhavan expressed that it will assume much relevance in India. “As Ramashankar said, the ownership patterns are changing .Why should a fleet operator with 10 tippers for example, stay stuck with 10 tippers for the rest of his life. Subscription based ownership patterns are changing. With multi-modal transport, somebody who has, a fleet manager, and a very good relationship with the end customer, should be able to choose the right transport at the right point and time,” added Madhavan. Stressing upon the change in ownership pattern, Madhavan said, “It will happen in India too. Not just at the vehicle level but also at the ownership level. There will be an ability to have different vehicles at different times, based on the requirement.” Opining that load optimisation, efficiency and production are already going up, Kaushik, in response to Ramakrishnan’s question on app.-based aggregators pushing utilisation up, said that aggregators will clearly say that investments are practically nil. “They have practically no assets to start with. Mind you, not just logistic operators who have 2000 to 2500 trucks but owners and drivers with just a single truck are benefitting. There is a wide opportunity for the entire spectrum,” he mentioned.

Regulations in the digital space

Stating that increase in utilisation and optimsation will lead to new challenges, Kaushik hinted at a move towards the airline industry-like regulatory practices. Said Sriniwas,”Such regulatory practices may not appear in the near future, but some business models would.” He drew attention to the use of sensors to collect data that can be analysed to understand the overall performance of the truck. “It will be able to have a long term relationship in terms of the overall maintenance of trucks. We could use it to deal with the operational efficiency, and pave the way for monetisation,” said Srinivas. “Some monetisation can happen with all the data analytics, and by giving some predictive information to the stakeholders. There is scope for improving the overall effeciency,” he added.

On MoRTH’ digitisation outlook, Dattatreya Saste expresed that the ministry will do whatever it takes as far as the fitness of vehicles is concerned. As far as the CV industry goes, Saste informed that they have developed a software for driver tests. “It is camera based, and transmitter-receiver based,” he added. Keen to replicate the software through a PPP model preferably, Saste averred, “Fitness of the driver is very important, and we are very keen as a government. We have to address safety of the people and the surroundings. We therefore have a mandate to come out with whatever electronic or digital support that is necessary. The registry should be able to ascertain if it is a vehicle problem, ownership problem or anything else.” Claiming that fuel efficiency in CVs will go up with digitisation, Bhushan averred that speeds are going up, and the rise in electronics will help to offer better comfort to the driver. “He will be attentive thus. Not just that, the industry clearly is moving to connected vehicles and offering driver assistance aids” he added. Said Kaushik, “For me the most important thing is to make the fleet operators aware of the advantages digitisation will offer.”

Ramashankar Pandey expressed that the LEDs in signalling lights will find a way into the head lights too. “Electronics is becoming cheaper,” he mentioned. Stating that electronics is finding a way into India with ‘Make in India’, Pandey opined, “If front LED lighting will be mid-term, in the long-term, the moment a truck is going outside there will be a digital clone ready. There will be predictive analysis, uptime will go up, driver cost will go up, and investment cost will go down.” “The ‘connected’ part of digitisation is fast cathing up. Load diagnostics can be captured; predictive maintenance is posible, and also an overall improvement in maintenance is possible. All this will have a definitive implication from the safety stand point, Srinivas mentioned.

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