Remotely operated farm equipment to improve productivity & operator safety: Tata Elxsi

The automotive industry has seen some drastic changes to trends and technology in the past decade and so are improvements in digital technology opening a new chapter in the off-highway vehicles industry, especially in the case of sensors, robotic automation, and data. The use of more sophisticated tech in vehicles used in the agriculture or mining or construction industries can also make way for machine learning and AI applications and hence improve efficiency and eventually make a move on to autonomous vehicles for these purposes. We got in touch with Shaju S, Vice President & Head, Transportation Business at Tata Elxsi for more.

Image: Tata Elxsi

© Provided by The Financial Express
Image: Tata Elxsi

a person posing for the camera

© Provided by The Financial Express

1. How has the off-highway industry changed in terms of the use of new technologies in the past decade? What does the outlook for the upcoming decade look like?

Enterprises must keep up with the growing demand for off-highway vehicles both domestically and internationally. One method by which off-highway enterprises are tackling expansion is through the adoption of new technologies in the agricultural, mining, and construction industries. The number of diverse technologies accessible now is staggering. The off-highway industry has tremendous potential, and businesses should concentrate on applying digitalization, innovative technology, and new procedures to increase production and efficiency.

As a method of increasing productivity and efficiency, digitalization trends have made their way into the heavy equipment sectors. In the off-highway vehicle and equipment industries, electrification has established a dominating position. While this is not a new field of development, it has increased in recent years, and many in the industry have embraced it more than might have otherwise been expected of a market that is sometimes criticised for being sluggish to absorb new technologies. Automation is, of course, another critical area of development for the sector, which has exploded in growth over the last decade and will continue to do so as a method of simplifying machine operating and solving labour scarcity concerns. There are other additional areas in which the heavy equipment and vehicle sectors are concentrating their technical efforts, which adds to the excitement of covering these businesses.

2. Do you think India is ready for smart and autonomous off-highway vehicles? Will it affect jobs or the need for operators in the future?

Smart farming is significantly more efficient than conventional agricultural methods. The epidemic has pushed India’s agricultural sector’s digitization. Agricultural digital applications will enable the sector to boost operational productivity and yield quality while lowering costs and waste. It entails the use of a variety of smart agricultural technologies, IoT devices, big data analytics, remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and robots. It is scientifically shown that using these technologies enhances profit, reduces waste, and preserves the quality of the environment. Digital technologies provide up new avenues for innovation, enabling today’s farmers to be more efficient, effective, and economically successful than ever before, while also offering a novel approach to resolving longstanding difficulties in commercial agriculture.

Workers in the construction business will benefit from smart and autonomous technologies. These devices can increase worker safety and efficiency. Additionally, they may work longer hours and complete the task more quickly. One of the most significant advantages of these types of construction equipment is that they contribute to a safer work environment. When it comes to big machinery, accidents are prevalent. Automated machinery enables the operator to control the project remotely. This eliminates the possibility of someone being pinned accidentally. Additionally, workers are not exposed to dust or vibrations continuously. This is because they will be further away from the action.

3. How can ‘smart’ tech benefit industries like farming or mining in terms of improving efficiency and ease of operations?

Advances in intelligent technology in farm machinery have increased the scale, speed, and productivity of farm equipment, allowing for the more efficient cultivation of larger areas of land. Seed, irrigation, and fertilisers have all seen significant improvements, allowing farmers to raise yields and enhance agricultural production. Precision agricultural equipment, which is becoming increasingly popular, is one of the most significant technological advances in farming. Precision equipment, which includes features such as autopilot and variable-rate controls, helps farmers get the most out of their inputs and labour to enhance efficiency, reduce excess, and optimise output.

Here at Tata Elxsi, we are developing analytics based on high-definition maps, which will aid in the generation of intelligence and warnings depending on local geography, weather conditions, and time of day, among other things. Low latency, high availability, and enough bandwidth guarantee that remote control and autonomous operations are safe and unfettered.

The ability to predict vehicle conditions through data analytics also contributes to the safety of vehicle operations. The performance of autonomous vehicles is monitored continuously and diagnosed, and as a result, preventative maintenance of these vehicles using data analytics guarantees that they operate safely and efficiently.

4. What technologies is Tata Elxsi working on to improve the safety of the vehicle and the operator?

The Intelligent Operator Assistance System (IOAS) developed by Tata Elxsi may be integrated into construction equipment to streamline job site operations and reduce the number of accidents and deaths. It is possible to apply vision-based 3D terrain mapping technology to aid the operator in making decisions and controlling machine operations, such as selecting the work to be accomplished, monitoring its progress, and certifying job completion, through the use of this visualisation capability. It is possible that this functionality will be improved in the future to allow for remote assignment, monitoring, and administration of these activities.

In an excavation site, obstacle detection is used to determine whether or not there are any obstructions in the route of the excavator’s arm. It provides an additional layer of security by sensing threats in close proximity to the excavator’s arm and preventing a collision with items in the surrounding area. It provides a warning that warns the operator and assists him or her in making a choice. With technological developments, it will be possible to watch the progress of a project and, as a result, minimise the frequency of site accidents that result in fatal injuries to employees, so enhancing site safety. Additionally, it is critical to maintaining the user’s health in the best possible shape in order to maximise the effectiveness of the site’s operations and personal well-being.

Also read: Personal Data Protection Bill to help secure data collected by connected cars: Here’s how

5. Can next-generation telematics and OTA updates reduce maintenance costs and time spent at the shop bed?

Vehicle electronics play a critical part in overall vehicle safety, which is driving an increase in the number of modern electronic systems being integrated into vehicles. Failure of any of these new systems might cause the vehicle to be out of commission for an extended period of time, and the local repair service providers are not acquainted with these systems and cannot perform adequate repairs. Longer breakdown times have a negative impact on the productivity of fleet managers. As a result, with the increasing complexity of vehicle designs, predictive maintenance of vehicles have become increasingly vital, and the need for prognostics is increasing throughout the world.

New capabilities, such as improved maintenance planning, are gradually being introduced into traditional Fleet Management systems, to increase their overall reliability. However, when it comes to ensuring uptime and efficiency, traditional approaches to maintenance, such as corrective and preventative measures, are suboptimal. This is where the technology of delivering predictive maintenance using unsupervised and supervised machine learning, OTA/FOTA approaches has the potential to make a significant difference in the industry. Vehicle maintenance systems, such as battery, brake, starter motor, tyres, and other important components, are capable of anticipating the need for vehicle maintenance or a conceivable failure of a critical component among other things.

6. How Advanced HiL testing and the use of in-house testbeds & tools reduce time & cost

The transportation industry’s fostering of innovation has resulted in dramatic increases in the amount of data flowing throughout vehicle electrical/electronic (E/E) systems, which must meet stringent quality standards. In order to ensure product consistency and reliability to meet dynamic regulations, extensive and rigorous testing and validation are carried out.

Tata Elxsi offers a variety of test solutions, test frameworks, and automation services to reduce cost by automating test cycles and improving quality and efficiency. In addition, extensive test labs and infrastructure facilities are required to support offshore and remote testing of systems providing cluster & HMI, Telematics, V2X, Operator Assistance and Autonomous Driving, and Vehicle Electrification.

Tata Elxsi’s system validation and HILS competency teams have extensive experience on different HILS platforms, setting up test infrastructure and test suite development based on product requirements. We assist in setting up HILS rigs, plant model development & maintenance of HILS rigs, development of test frameworks, test cases, test automation and execution of tests in HIL/Test rig environments.

6. Are you hoping for support from the government in terms of policy creation to promote smart features in off-highway vehicles? What happens to the data collected by these connected vehicles?

From a value creation standpoint, smart vehicles will assist agriculture, construction, and mining industries more than conventional passenger operations. Contextual analytics and the effective integration of weather, terrain, and local circumstances data enable the provision of more insightful information. The benefits of asset monitoring, safety, and security will be enormous.

Currently, the biggest impediment is the lack of stable connectivity in areas with a small subscriber base. Open technologies and edge adoption have the potential to resolve this issue in the short term. The government should take the necessary efforts to improve connectivity throughout the country, including rural regions. The other practical impediment is the prohibitively high cost of technology. Reduce the cost of bespoke electronics and lifecycle management by leveraging the smartphone as a gateway and developing business models around who pays for data. This will help lower the overall cost of technology and make it more appealing.

Off-Highway transportation is undergoing a fourth revolution, caused by the exponential growth of information and communication technology use in agriculture and construction. Improved farm management advice is now possible thanks to new technology, such as unmanned aerial drones equipped with powerful, lightweight cameras. Autonomous vehicles have been designed for use in agriculture, mining, and construction. Taken together, these technical advancements represent a technological revolution that will reshape the off highway business. This trend is seen not just in industrialised nations, but also in emerging countries, where information and communication technology deployments (e.g., mobile phone use, Internet access) are accelerating and may become game changers in the future.

The use of smart technology to track the entry of resources and the creation of products does pose concerns about property rights and data use. Business models may add value by transforming spatially explicit large data into information and recommendations for consumers, as well as regulatory agencies that may utilise the data for monitoring and control. Governments must build a legislative framework that ensures the integrity of data while also creating confidence among all stakeholders. The possibility for data misuse complicates regulatory and monitoring efforts on a legal and ethical level.

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