Three IIT-Madras students aim to bring features envisioned in self-driving cars to existing non-autonomous vehicles in the Indian market at affordable costs.
Founder: Rohan Rao, Abhijit Gupta and Rajat Rao
Year it was founded: 2017
Where it is based: Chennai
In a hostel of a hundred students, what could a group of three possibly find in common to get together and start something? For Rohan Rao, Abhijit Gupta, and Rajat Rao, who are pursuing their B tech and M Tech from IIT-Madras, it was their hometown Bengaluru, and its nagging traffic problem.
The trio started Dynamove in 2017, an integrated hardware platform for intelligent transportation systems. Its solutions are aimed at tackling the various issues faced by a vehicle user, from safety and reliability issues to inefficiencies and environmental damage.
Abhijit says, “The notoriety of Bengaluru's traffic and the time that we've spent thinking about solving it while stuck in the same is what prompted us to look in this direction. In our second year, we came up with a bunch of ideas to optimally coordinate signal times and incoming traffic, but we didn't really work on any specifics till the Flipkart Gridlock Hackathon in 2017, where we were finalists.”
The three then started working on the idea part-time, while completing their coursework. Soon enough, Dynamove started taking up a major portion of their time, and they started giving the idea some shape. It is now their primary focus.
The founders are looking to make the product live by early 2019.
A 2015 Statistica report says there are over a billion motor vehicles throughout the world, and when one considers only India, there are around 25 million cars on the streets, and growing at a rate of 10 percent annually.
The trio wanted to bring the features envisioned in self-driving and some luxury cars to existing non-autonomous vehicles that were designed primarily for the Indian market, and were affordable.
“We want to do this by introducing a retrofittable ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) module, which will be kept in front of the vehicle's driver. Equipped with a camera, a display, and a host of other electronics, we aim to utilise this along with the user's phone to assist them in driving,” explains Rohan.
The founders claim that hardware-accelerated computer vision algorithms can predict any collisions, recognise traffic signage, lane departure, and much more, and this can be used to alert and assist a driver.
The trio also aims to also use this device to monitor vehicle parameters and provide warnings on vehicle health using predictive analytics, as well as to "talk" to nearby vehicles and infrastructure (signals, toll gates, EV charging grids etc) to ease traffic flow.
“In other words, a traffic signal could automatically turn green after communicating with our module in an ambulance, and a vehicle can be alerted about a roadblock before it even arrives there as another vehicle just encountered it. This will also help reduce traffic shockwaves and gridlocks, which are extremely common in India today,” says Abhijit.
Besides venturing into the unknown, there are challenges that one faces on the road to entrepreneurship. Talking about them, Abhijit says, “The main challenge that we face is in the diversity of skills required to build and distribute any hardware, and since our plan is quite broad, we are pipelining our features with an emphasis on the core technology.”
Dynamove wants to scale one step at a time to create a full-fledged operating system of sorts for vehicular traffic.
With Rohan’s keen interest and skill-sets in AI, robotics, and wireless communication, Abhijit's in operations research, and optimisation algorithms, besides the business/product aspects, and Rajat's in hardware design, the three realised they had the arsenal to tackle a diverse problem such as this one.
Dynamove has a team of over 10 other students at IIT-M working on various aspects of the product.
They are mentored by Prof Radha Krishna Ganti from the Electrical Engineering department, who is currently heading the Government of India's 5G project. Dynamove is also a part of Nirmaan, IITM's pre-incubator, which provided seed funding and mentoring to the startup.
Traffic signal detection: The cameras track signals and their state (red/yellow/green) and use this to estimate traffic states.
While there are several startups working in the mobility and transportation space worldwide, there are not too many specifically targeting the Indian market and other developing nations. Competitors worldwide include companies like Mobileye, and Hudway, while the Indian ones include Zyme and Uurmi. Reliance Jio is also a player in the connected vehicles space.
Talking about its differentiator, Abhijit says, “We believe that our hardware-based approach to this problem is quite unique, and this offers us significantly higher processing power at an affordable cost. Additionally, we aim to integrate all aspects of traffic management to one retrofittable module, and this is what sets us apart from other players in this domain (who primarily focus on solving specific aspects of the overall problem).”