Saurabh Chandra, one of the founding members of Ati Motors, a Bengaluru-based startup, creating an all-electric autonomous cargo vehicle, is making heads turn.
Founded in 2017 by Dr V Vinay, Saurabh Chandra, and Saad Nasser – a 15-year-old who dropped out of the formal education system in Grade 5 – this start-up is pushing the envelope on innovation.
It also aims to take Indian products on par with global standards!
Validating their idea is stalwart Anand Mahindra, who in a tweet said, “Very impressive. Like the fact that a ‘wunderkind’ is one of the promoters. Also like their focus on the non-glamorous but commercially more viable industrial sector.”
Very impressive. Like the fact that a ‘wunderkind’ is one of the promoters. Also like their focus on the non-glamorous but commercially more viable industrial sector. Let me know if @MahindraRise can be of value to help you succeed… pic.twitter.com/YMemyyDkJN
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) December 11, 2018
In a conversation with The Better India, Saurabh takes us through their journey.
The startup is building an autonomous electrically-powered cargo vehicle from scratch that targets the commercial user. Saurabh admits he is surprised by the reaction from Indian customers.
He begins, “When we started, we were not thinking about the Indian market. The idea was to do a global product from India. But we have been pleasantly surprised with the response [from India]. The drivers for adoption are different from advanced economies where they are plagued with labour shortages. Companies that are growing fast know that you can’t get more speed by just adding people, you need automation.”
The truck’s driving logic relies on a number of smart sensors, along with four cameras – which take all kinds of inputs before committing to a response. Moreover, the truck is powered by an in-house designed and built battery system, which, incidentally, can provide refrigeration during transport.
Thanks to its lightweight design, the electric cargo vehicle can achieve a range of up to 200 km, even with a payload of 500 kg.
The vehicle has two wheels in the front and one at the back, and a cargo hold to ferry loads. It comes without a steering, and relies on its unique configuration to make sharp turns, which will even be able to rotate full circle with a very short turning radius!
Ati Motors has come up the initial learning curve and is now being noticed at various start-up conclaves, but what is even more gratifying for the founders is the attention from the general public.
Saurabh says, “People share our sense of pride in doing next-generation technologies in India. This is very satisfying.”
On asked if the Indian environment is conducive for innovators, he answers, “Every environment has its challenges and opportunities. India is no different. We understand how to take advantage of our location and not treat it as a handicap. We have collaboration with the Indian Institute of School (IISC) Bengaluru, that has helped us in testing our prototype. We have been able to engage with large corporates in doing demos in real environment. The Bengaluru ecosystem has amazing talent and vendors to get the hardware done locally.”
As a startup, Ati Motors would have faced some challenges too. Saurabh reveals, “Importing things with the high custom duties are surely barriers for a hardware startup like ours. Making payments to vendors abroad could also be simpler.”
While driverless vehicles throw up as many questions as they answer – one thing is for certain — that they are the future. And to see an Indian company aiming to play in the big league is certainly heartening.
We are rooting for these underdogs who are trying to make their space in a segment dominated by global auto giants with deep pockets – we wish them the best!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)