Daimler Truck Innovation Center India aims to be a key contributor to zero-emission drive

The innovation centre in Bengaluru is building deeptech expertise in the areas of software and engineering to develop zero-emission commercial vehicles for a future that will be steered by both battery and hydrogen.

Daimler Truck Innovation Center India aims to be a key contributor to zero-emission drive

Thursday November 09, 2023,

7 min Read

Daimler Truck Innovation Center India is an engineering and software hub for Daimler Truck, the world’s largest commercial vehicles manufacturer headquartered in Germany.

Established in 2021, following the spin-off of Daimler Truck from Mercedes-Benz AG, Daimler Truck Innovation Center India in Bengaluru has quickly evolved into a centre of software and engineering expertise, engaged with all product lines of the parent company.

The ambition for the India unit is to be part of developments that have a definite impact in terms of return on investments and innovative product features built through deep technology. Three years since its establishment, the centre has made valuable contributions to the diverse product range of Daimler Truck.

Daimler Truck Innovation CEO

For instance, the Bengaluru centre has provided the key software elements that enhance the safety features of vehicles, especially with respect to pedestrian crossing. It has also played a significant role in the connectivity aspect of vehicles, internally and while they are on the move.

The centre has also strengthened the collaborative process within the group.

The other such hubs of Daimler Truck are located in Portland (United States), Stuttgart (Germany) and Tokyo (Japan), which are focussed on particular products. The India centre fosters collaboration with these hubs.

In an interview with YourStory, Raghavendra Vaidya, MD & CEO of Daimler Truck Innovation Center India, spoke about the broad changes in the commercial vehicles industry and his ambition to make the Bengaluru centre the best engineering centre among the parent company’s global hubs.

“We want this to be the place where engineers want to come and work for us to make the product better and also make themselves better engineers as well as leaders,” he said.

Edited excerpts from the interview

YourStory (YS): Could you give us an overview of the key developments in the commercial vehicle industry globally?

Raghavendra Vaidya (RV): From a commercial vehicle industry standpoint, we are at an inflection point where the world wants us to be carbon neutral, with zero emission. That transformation is still centered around engineering products that do not use fossil fuels, mainly diesel.

There are two types of products that do not use fossil fuels: battery electric vehicles and hydrogen. The crux of it is what we call the power to drive and the intelligence to drive. Power to drive is about the change from diesel to hydrogen or electric. Intelligence to drive is rooted in software where we are talking about multiple things like connectivity, IT inside the vehicles, safety features, etc.

Our stance is very clear. Zero emission has both battery and hydrogen in the future. Either one of them by itself is not going to make the cut. There is a very strong engineering argument behind this. So, as we make this transition, it's going to get tougher to perfect these technologies.

However, we also believe that this generation of engineers are the ones who are going to make carbon neutral possible for the commercial vehicle industry. There’s never been a better time than now in the automotive industry because we are solving lots of first-time problems. And that’s what engineers want to do.

YS: What is the role of Daimler Truck Innovation Center India?

RV: Daimler Truck Innovation Centre India is an engineering centre. We are at the centre of change both for the intelligence to drive and the power to drive. We want to be the best engineering centre outside of our home locations.

We want to be the best engineering centre which is close to our product lines and solving many of their challenges. This can be done by developing the depth in engineering. We want to be at the front and centre of this transformation. Also, we really want to be the employer of choice.

In the software area, we have extreme depth in the areas of connectivity and active safety. The most dynamic one is on the connectivity side, what we call ‘onboard’ and ‘offboard’. Onboard is all that we do for connectivity inside the truck. Offboard is once the truck is on the move, where it gets connected to the cloud. We do deep work in computer science in writing the algorithms for the trucks.

On the safety side, it is about creating new algorithms to come out with new features like cross traffic assist, which helps in avoiding collisions.

So, the teams in Bengaluru make major contributions in the entire value chain of engineering.

YourStory: How would you describe the contribution of the Bengaluru centre?

RV: The contribution of the Bangalore centre will be deep in the area of products. In the next few years, we have lined up some really complex products, and our competitive edge in the market depends on the success of these products.

Our deep understanding of products, markets, and customers will keep growing the value story. Our focus is on how to get deeper into the product and make it better, so as to drive innovation. We are the centre where we make the data and analytics and AI happen.

Our other global engineering centres are all focused on their own product lines. Here (in Bengaluru) we do it for everybody–it is like bringing the best of the worlds of engineering and IT. This also brings in a lot of collaboration because we have engineers working on all the products under one roof. So this is one centre where we have a bird's eye view of engineering.

YS: What kind of talent is Daimler looking for in India?

RV: There are three reasons we are in India: talent, talent and talent. I would say we are a 95% digital company. The talent in India is just phenomenal, not just by numbers but also by the sheer depth the engineers come with. We hire from universities as well as laterals. We train and groom them. From a talent standpoint, I think attracting talent has never been an issue for us, we are a huge brand.

YourStory: How is the innovation centre harnessing all the data that’s generated through technology platforms?

RV: Data is only as good as the intelligence that you can derive out of it. We are just about scratching the surface (on this front).

One way we do it (harness data) is we work with our fleets and create solutions for them in areas such as predictive maintenance and route optimisation.

We have a dedicated team that works on data use cases globally, not just on engineering but also on supply chain, manufacturing, after sales, etc. We use AI and machine learning models to get the data to work for us.

YourStory: Does Daimler’s India innovation centre engage with the Indian startup ecosystem?

RV: Not yet. We are actively watching the environment. We would like to partner with startups, but the challenge is, for the automotive segment, they are not a very thriving community. There are not many startups working in the automotive sector.

However, we do have a lot of deeptech startups. Our engagement will happen provided we find a deeptech problem and need to partner for a solution. I think we are looking for that.

We are very bullish on partnering with academia. At IIT Bombay and IISC Bengaluru, we have really good projects going on and we will keep expanding them. I think some problems are best solved in academic settings where there is a combination of science, engineering and basic research, where we are very hopeful of finding a few solutions.

Edited by Swetha Kannan