Indian techie builds self-driving Tata Nano; could retrofit any car in one hour!

After Google's self driven cars and initiatives by automotive companies Nissan and Tesla, the existence of a project in India came as a surprise to many.


Dr Roshy John heads Robotics and Cognitive Systems at Tata Consultancy Services in Kochi. However, a project he attempted during his leisure has caught the attention of tech and auto enthusiasts online. After Google's self driven cars and initiatives by automotive companies Nissan and Tesla, the existence of a project in India came as a surprise to many.

In a conversation with FirstPost, the idea of building self-driving car dawned upon him when he called for a taxi at the airport to go home. To his surprise the taxi driver was more exhausted than him and seemed sleepy. John requested the driver to switch seats and drove himself. That also inspired him to do something about it. He felt it was his responsibility to build an autonomous vehicle within his capabilities.

Being a robotics professional, John felt that's where he could create a solution to solve a problem. After going through the list of vehicles available in the market, he opted for the Tata Nano. According to John, the Nano is one of the most cost efficient and optimised solution in the market. Also, considering that the Tata Nano has a rear engine, adding actuators and sensors to the front of the Tata Nano is relatively easier.

 Indian techie builds self-driving Tata Nano; could retrofit any car in one hour!

A 3D simulation of a Tata Nano. Image: Dr Roshy John

John and his team got down to simulating a Tata Nano and did a complete virtual simulation of the car to ensure the concept would work. Once the simulation was tested out, John's team added cameras to the rear of the conventional cars and drove them in city conditions to tweak their algorithms to acclimatise them to the city environment.

fixing tata nano

Dr John and his team wiring the Tata Nano. Image: Dr Roshy John.

Once the team was confident in the progress they had made with the algorithm, John purchased a brand new Tata Nano. He then pulled it apart to accommodate cameras, sensors and actuators in the car. The task at hand was to make a 1-to-1 real life model of the simulation that was created. He then identified a few urban layouts where the team could test the system.

That's when the team discovered a hurdle. The simulation assumed the Tata Nano would have an automatic transmission system. However, in the real world, the Nano (during trials) came only with manual transmission. To solve this hurdle, John's team built a manual automatic transmission system that helped map the simulated model with the Tata Nano.

Through the course of putting together the autonomous Nano, the team created a modular system that could be fitted on to any vehicle available in under an hour. When the team was relatively confident, they opted for a real case test.

The real case test of the autonomous Tata Nano. Image: Dr Roshy John

The real case test of the autonomous Tata Nano. Image: Dr Roshy John

John's team placed multiple cameras in the vehicle, and a couple of team members were seated in the car with him. A person in the rear seat had a hard reset button to apply emergency brakes in case of a system failure. The rest of the team monitored the performance of the system through a wireless network to ensure a smooth drive.

The operating system for the autonomous Tata Nano project is based on Linux and has been created by Dr John's team. The project has completely been financed by his savings and pooling resources from patents he owns. You can catch a glimpse of John's project in the video below.

 


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