Story & Pictures: Ashish Bhatia

The 16th edition of Symposium on International Automotive Technology 2019 (SIAT 2019) was organised by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), in association with SAE INDIA, NATRiP and SAE International (USA), at Bavdhan, in Pune between January 16 and January 18, 2019. A biennial fixture in the automotive industry’s calendar, SIAT 2019 lived up to its tag of being reckoned as a catalyst of change in the global automotive circle. Serving as a widely acclaimed forum, this year too, it facilitated a constructive exchange for the stakeholders of the automotive industry. This was validated by the participation of eminent worldwide experts from across the automotive spectrum. With the theme of ‘Empowering Mobility – The Safe and Intelligent Way’, SIAT 2019, ensured attention on diverse array of subjects including ‘Harmonisation of Regulations’, ‘Transportation Systems’, ‘Manufacturing’, ‘Simulation and Modelling’, ‘Structural Reliability’, ‘Testing and Evaluation Techniques’, ‘Tyre Technology’ and ‘End of Life and Recycling’. With a focus on recent advances in various automotive areas, such as safety, emissions, engines, noise, e-mobility, electronics, intelligent transportation, vehicle dynamics, materials, and alternate fuels, the forum brought to the fore innovative ideas and solutions in automotive technologies aimed at meeting future challenges.

At SIAT 2019, like in the previous editions, the technical papers continued to be a big draw. During the symposium, over 200 technical papers were presented as a future repository. In all 40 keynotes, on various subjects, were presented. Apart from the symposium proceedings, technical reference bulletin, containing technical articles, case studies and product information were also published.

The inaugural day began by stating how the Indian government was poised to bridge technology and the regulatory gap in the future. ARAI representatives assured full support to the ministry and the government. According to Vikram Kirloskar, Vice Chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd. and President ARAI, “Given the potential contribution, the automotive industry is the biggest growth driver of GDP. Over the last decade, significant gains have been made. Going forward, dealing with complexities, the automotive industry requires the highest level of innovation to satisfy the customers.”

Lauding ARAI for having built the requisite competence and infrastructure, Kirloskar called for innovation at an affordable cost. He also drew attention to product development cycle times being compressed given the backdrop of increasing disruptive changes. “The new avenues opened up by crash norms, new safety requirements, the call for e-mobility, have all opened up a global set of requirements,” he explained. Citing disruptive changes as a big challenge for the industry, Kirloskar apprised his audience of the rising need for skilled manpower and resources for the automotive industry to be able to sustain the growth momentum.

Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Director, ARAI, drew attention to a panel discussion titled ‘Çollaborative R&D for Futuristic Mobility Solution’, on the agenda this year which she said would bring all the stakeholders on a common platform. Urdhwareshe announced a joint development programme on seats with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). About selection of the technical papers, she said that a total of 236 manuscripts were selected for publication, including 40 invited papers and keynotes from India and overseas, making for a valuable repository.

Bringing a perspective from the aviation space, Dr Bala Bharadvaj, Managing Director, Boeing Research & Technology India, and President SAE INDIA, urged the industry to look at the classification ‘Automotive’ as one that looks at not just surface vehicles but those flying in the air. He opined that it would widen the horizon of the industry on the whole. Bharadvaj cited the example of hands-free driving in planes, referred to semi-autonomous in the automotive parlance, as a ready to adopt solution. Traffic manoeuvres in aeroplanes in the 3D space, air traffic vehicular management, he opined, had attained a high degree of advancement. Bharadvaj urged the industry to look at ways to think beyond just the cocoon of the automobile industry and borrow technology from the aerospace industry especially in areas like shaping and structuring of the vehicles. “I request the industry to think beyond the set boundaries and blur them especially since both the industries require a similar scale of effort to graduate to the next level,” he said.

David L. Schutt, Chief Executive Officer, SAE International, said the society has 130,000 members from 100 countries. He reiterated the Society’s commitment to help advance mobility.

Chief Guest Dr A R Sihag, Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India, lauded the auto industry for having come a long way since the early decade of Independence. Speaking of the Indian auto industry as ranked among the top 5 globally, Dr Sihag, highlighted the technological strides made by the industry in relation to environment, safety and affordability. Citing the automotive mission plan for the next decade (2016-2026), he said that the industry aimed to graduate to rank 3 globally. From the present contribution of 8%, the industry will look to contribute an estimated 12% to the GDP, and result in direct and indirect employment for 65 million Indians, he claimed. “NATRIP Implementation Society (NATIS) will implement the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (NATRIP),” he explained.

Highlighting the Government’s role in promoting electric vehicles through FAME-I, Dr Sihag lauded the latter’s efforts in helping the industry to localise the manufacturing of e-vehicles. He cited the launch of 450 vehicles under a pilot project relating to public transport and shared mobility across 9 cities. Fame-I with its outlay of Rs 10,000 crore, he exclaimed, would take over from the FAME-I scheme that expires in 2019. On the need to have the requisite infrastructure for electric vehicle homologation testing, he said that the latter would be sanctioned sooner than later in a bid to help manufacturers override any constraint going forward. “We expect it to be functional later this year,” he stated. Cognisant of the need for charging infrastructure, he added that the government was actively looking at building 300 charging stations with a focus of taking e-vehicles out of the city limitations, on to highways like the Golden Triangle which connects Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Dr Sihag concluded by urging ARAI to engage the industry to commit to R&D projects funded by the Department of Heavy Industries (DHI).

C V Raman, Senior Executive Director, Engineering, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., and Vice-President ARAI, drew attention to the increasing consumerism, with households in the upper-income category (aspirers and above) pegged to have grown by 2 times as per a Boston Consulting Group study, from 3.1 million in 2005 to 6.5 million 2016. He opined that the progression towards the digital economy was disrupting the conventional approach. A study pegged the share of smart phone users among mobile users to have reached 36% in 2018 from 22% in 2014. “Because of all these changes mobility has gone through a transformation. He pegged the use of public transportation in India at 18% with private transport accounting for 15% (two-wheelers at 12% and four-wheelers at 3%) as per a TERI study. “I urge stakeholders to look at India’s requirement of affordable mobility solutions,” he said. Speaking on high congestion and the impact of vehicle speed on carbon emissions, Raman invoked a Japan Automotive Research Institute study which stated that as vehicle speeds drop from 40 kmph to 20 kmph, carbon emissions increase by 40%. He additionally blamed the pre-BSI vehicles (till the year 2000) amounting to 9 million as a major cause of high pollution levels in the country.

“Stricter emission norms with old vehicles will not solve the problem,” he quipped. Citing the world’s most polluted cities to be in India, a study from the World Health Organisation (WHO) had Kanpur, Faridabad and Varanasi listed as the top 3 polluting cities globally. He urged the government to facilitate the scrappage of old vehicles if it was actively considering reducing carbon emissions. India needs a Scrappage policy and a Scrappage Center,” he said. He additionally called for the need to implement practical and feasible solutions to reduce fuel consumption. A PPAC, Nomura 2018 study pegged 85% of crude oil imported in India as accounting for 20% of India’s import bills. “India requires environment-friendly and energy secure mobility,” he said. New car sales between 2018 and 2030, at a CAGR of 8%, are expected to burden the country’s roads with 70 million cumulative vehicles. With the next phase of future safety regulations to be built on Indian accident data, he urged the industry stakeholders to consider technology development modelled on Indian customer requirements.

Drawing attention to mobility solutions in the global context, Raman made comparisons between Tokyo and Delhi for instance where he cited an example of a similar route length boasting of a higher ridership in the former. Tokyo boats of a 3.5 times annual ridership compared to Delhi according to a study. “Delhi lacks the last mile connectivity and affordable solutions,” he said. Calling for integrated mobility solutions for boosting last mile connectivity in the country, the case study of Integrated one-stop Mobility solutions (USA) was referred to in the presentation. Raman summed up as he urged the industry to look at affordable, connected and shared, environment-friendly and energy secure, and safer mobility as the need of the hour. ACI

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