FISITA 2018 Accelerates Disruption, Boosts Sustainable Mobility Solutions

By APA Bureau:

The 37th FISITA World Automotive Congress, the automotive industry’s largest global biennial confluence, in Chennai, India, with the theme: ‘Disruptive Technologies for Affordable and Sustainable Mobility,’ discussed the significant research and discoveries in subjects like powertrain and emissions, fuels and lubricants and vehicle concepts. FISITA 2018 served as a powerful motivator for the continued growth of the automotive mobility industry and its contributors. It set the stage for global automotive industry experts to deliberate with Indian counterparts on technologies such as connected, shared, electric mobility and autonomous vehicles. These technologies have the potential to transform the future of mobility. FISITA World Automotive Congress with its unique conglomerate of global technology leaders helped accelerate disruption and boost sustainable mobility.
The four-day event attracted over 1,500 delegates from India and abroad. The FISITA Congress, which was held for the first time in its 70-year history in Chennai, was a reassertion of India’s growing importance in the global automotive space. The various speakers at the Congress highlighted this.
Dr Aravind Bharadwaj, Chief Technology Officer, Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, said that India is well on its way to emerge as the world’s third largest automotive market by 2020. The automotive industry is witnessing significant transformations owing to rapidly changing customer preferences and stringent regulatory requirements.
“The emerging mobility solutions are required to meet the needs of the increasingly environment-conscious customers as well as address the challenges thrown up by infrastructure constraints. Technology will play a big role in achieving these objectives,” he said.
Dr Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Patron, FISITA 2018 Steering Committee, spoke about the changing dynamics of the mobility industry, technological transformations, emergence of new markets and India’s role as technology provider to the world.
He focused on the three key areas of disruption, affordability and sustainability (DAS), and said they have a lot of good as well as some bad and ugly aspects. “Sustainability is about removing the bad and the ugly and making the good even better,”
Goenka said.
The automotive industry has been contributing to the Indian economy in terms of investment, employment, tax revenues and technology development while offering fun, freedom and adventure to its users. The industry is also responsible for poor air quality, climate change, road congestion, road fatalities, etc, he said.
The developing nations are aspiring for better but affordable mobility solutions. Goenka said, “India gave the world the concept of sub four-metre cars that ushered in one level of affordability. The need of the hour is to go beyond that. The challenge is to make mobility accessible to billions of people worldwide who cannot afford it. The answers to addressing affordability and sustainability lie in disruptive technologies and disruptive business models.”
Later Goenka told the media that with over 100 patents filed last year by IIT-Madras, India is cruising on the IP (intellectual property) front. The country has become a hub for R&D in many respects. “Indian companies like Mahindra& Mahindra, Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland have large R&D portfolio for their own needs with about 4,000 engineers. Many multinational OEMs have set-up R&D centres in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. Everyone has thousands of engineers working in these facilities,” he said. But, the difference is that the Indian R&D happening for the MNCs is not mainstream but supportive of the headquarter R&D efforts. The next step would be for the country to emerge as R&D hubs for mainstream work, he said. Already companies such as GE and GM have set up their R&D facilities in Bengaluru. Thousands of engineers working in these MNCs have been doing back-end (like CAD) but cutting-edge technology work.
Daniel Nicholson, President, FISITA and Vice President, Global Propulsion Systems, General Motors, told the conference that the automotive industry would change more in the next five years than it did in the last 50 years. The industry is witnessing rapid changes in the volatile regulatory environments, increased availability of alternative propulsion systems, autonomous vehicles, advanced cyber security, etc. Such sweeping changes have been affecting every facet of the automotive industry. “Despite all these changes in the global automotive space, vehicles continue to improve in areas of safety, efficiency, quality and better impact on environment,” he said.
Nicholson emphasised the need for the existing technologies to be more refined and better to offer more affordable and safe mobility options for people across the globe. The focus should also be on undertaking radical and disruptive technologies to produce significant and profound improvements in future.
Arvind Balaji, Joint Managing Director, Lucas TVS India, and Guest of Honour at the conference, said the four themes of the automotive industry: shared mobility, electro-mobility, connected and autonomous vehicles, raised many fundamental questions. He wondered whether mobility would be a service (like Uber, Ola, etc) or a product sold to customers. The evolving trend would determine the kind of vehicles that would be sold. The rapid adoption of connected technologies will mark the entry of many new suppliers from outside the country. Balaji is not sure if such a scenario would be disruptive to the current players.
India has shown the way of frugal engineering. The Indian engineers, on their own or with technical partners, have been working on the next generation technologies such as 48-volt systems, advanced braking systems, light component systems, etc.
“We are expecting to be where the rest of the world is and they have done this for 100 years. Some amount of ecosystem is also required for us. Indian engineers are as good as anybody else in the world. It is a matter of time for India to emerge as the R&D and IP generation hub,” Balaji said.
M M Murugappan, Executive Chairman, Murugappa Group, and the Chief Guest, said “FISITA World Automotive Congress will spur the Indian mobility ecosystem. Disruptive innovation is not about science, products and processes but disruptive business model itself.”
The industry is witnessing a geographical shift from more developed nations to developing countries like India, Brazil, Russia and China, where requirements, priorities and technologies are very different, he said.
Murli M Iyer, Global Executive Advisor, SAE International and VP, FISITA Americas, said after four years of pitching for it, the domestic auto industry had exhibited maturity to hold such a conference. And, Chennai was the obvious choice given its ‘Detroit’ mantle. The FISITA World Automotive Congress is touted as an important landmark for the Indian automotive industry to foster partnership with the global automotive community to meet the emerging mobility needs. The insightful deliberations at FISITA 2018 would serve as a catalyst for India to develop breakthrough technologies to meet the needs of Indian and global customers.

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