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As Auto Expo 2018, the biennial automotive extravaganza, rolls past, Gaurav Nagpal brings you the highlights

As the Indian automotive industry looks to the future, multiple possibilities could shape its direction. Manufacturers are continually creating new concept vehicles; environment-friendly engine technology is coming to the fore; vehicles with artificial intelligence (AI) do not seem like the stuff of science fiction any more; and there are always faster and more luxurious supercars! The recently concluded Auto Expo 2018, held near Delhi brought many of these trends to the fore. Read on to learn about where the industry is headed.

From concept to reality

A concept vehicle, in essence, represents the best of what engineering, R&D, design and other teams of automotive manufacturers can come up with, given a free rein on technology and budgets. Concept vehicles are more a representation of the direction in which the industry is headed than a look at what the actual vehicle will be like and, in that capacity, they play a key role.

There were a number of interesting concept vehicles exhibited this year. Renault presented the bewitching Trezor, a lightweight, all-electric concept sportscar whose most eye-catching aspect is its roof, a one-piece structure that combines a roof, a bonnet and the doors, and opens upwards from the front to allow access to the interior as well as the engine bay. Maruti-Suzuki had the e-Survivor four-wheel-drive concept SUV, a quirky, all-electric vehicle that counts autonomous driving among its many capabilities. The two-wheeler world was not to be left behind, with Yamaha’s MOTOROiD bringing AI to the biking world, along with facial recognition, haptic technology, gesture control  and self-balancing.

The fast and the expensive

Fast cars and bikes take the thrill of an automobile to a whole new level, and there sure were some fast specimens at the expo. Leading the pack was the Mercedes-AMG GT R (aka “the beast of the green hell”), hitting 100 km/h from standstill in just 3.6 seconds, with a top speed comfortably beyond the triple-century mark. Even quicker is the new BMW M5 sedan, which can despatch the same 0-100 km/h run in 3.4 seconds, aided by the BMW M xDrive system, which allows the driver to conveniently switch between rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD). Both cars use V8 turbopetrol engines with over 550 PS peak power.

If it is fast, it will not come cheap! Lovers of speed and luxury do not have the purchase price anywhere close to the top of their ‘things to consider’ list; even so, the price tags of some of the cars screamed for attention. The aforementioned Mercedes-AMG GT R is priced at Rs 2.23 crore (ex-showroom India), but it does deliver in spades. Then there was the long-wheelbase Mercedes- Maybach S650, sitting pretty at the top of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup and priced at Rs 2.73 crore (ex-showroom India), with a six-litre V12 turbo petrol putting out 620 PS and loaded with every manner of driver assistance and luxury feature imaginable.

For the environment

Concerns for the environment are ever-present, and tend to spike when it comes to any discussion on automobiles. A key factor in this discussion is the use of fossil fuels (petrol and diesel), which, try as you may, do result in a fair bit of pollution. Electric and hybrid engine technology is a solution many are looking to, and this was evident in the number and type of vehicles lined up with either pure electric or hybrid (electric + petrol/other) powertrains.

An eye-catcher in this field was the Hyundai IONIQ, claiming to be the world’s first car that has all three possible variants of electric power – hybrid (petrol + electric, where the petrol engine charges and recharges the battery that powers the electric motor), plug-in hybrid (petrol + electric, where the car can be plugged in to a charging station to charge the battery), and pure electric. The two-wheeler segment marked its presence too, with the TVS Creon performance scooter concept running on electric power and sporting an 80 km range; its charging time is comparable to modern smartphones!

Stay connected

The future of mobility will have interconnected vehicles and smart technology as a key highlight. This could result in a number of interesting benefits: case in point, predictive connectivity developed by Continental Automotive, where crowdsourcing allows the collection of network quality data for the roads ahead and alerts drivers about when and where their calls are likely to drop. Smartphones will also serve as access control devices (keyless entry/ exit and ignition on/off).

A very interesting smart vehicle was the Flow electric scooter (from Twenty-Two Motors), claimed to be India’s first AI-enabled, cloud-connected scooter that sends alerts for servicing as well as deviation from its regular routes. Cloud-based data analytics is, of course, part of the package. Mahindra & Mahindra brought its single-seater ATOM urban mobility concept that incorporates seamless connection with multiple transport modes to allow last-mile connectivity.

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