Sunil Gupta, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Avis India

Enterprises in the transportation sector are increasingly leveraging new-age solutions to improve their overall efficiency and deliver world-class services. As such, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), big data and blockchain are making inroads into the sector as organisations are discovering newer use cases. Moreover, low latency, high capacity and reliability offered by 5G technology is expected to have a significant impact on how goods and people travel. Going forward, the future of the transportation sector will be carved by radical transformation through major disruptive technologies based on intelligent transport systems, mainly driven by Industry 4.0 and data analytics, from hyperloop to autonomous and remotely piloted vehicles. Industry leaders share their views on the role of new-age technologies in transforming the sector, key technologies deployed by their companies, opportunities that 5G brings in and the way forward…

How are new-age technologies such as AI/ML, big data, blockchain and IoT transforming the transportation and mobility sector?

As a consequence of developments in digital and internet technologies, the trans­por­tation landscape has evolved rapidly. To­day, technologies such as AI, ML, IoT, big data and blockchain constitute a digital ecosystem enriched by data and information. Moreover, with the advent of 5G, the internet is set to improve and avail of these technologies for monitoring traffic patterns, reducing road accidents and even allowing commuters to track emissions.

While AI can enable safer, reliable, efficient and cleaner transport, it can also utilise real-time data to extract key in­sights that can help improve road safety, avoid accidents and improve connectivity. Blockchain technology, in contrast, facilitates information transfer between IoT de­vices without third-party intermediaries, implying decentralisation and providing data safety for users of IoT devices. A combination of these technologies presents the potential for developing smart road traffic management systems, which can be leveraged to understand and assess un­safe driving patterns, road conditions and ensure road safety on a larger scale.

What are the key digital solutions being dep­loy­ed by your organisation? How have they helped improve business and operations?

Avis’s technology stack includes the CarPro web-based application and electronic rental agreement (eRA). The former is hosted on Avis’s data centre in Gurugram and is used for creating reservations, rental agreemen­ts, managing fleet and generating invoices. eRA works closely with the CarPro app and is a digital agreement sent to the mobile device of the customer through API (application programming interface).

Currently, the most intriguing way in which we leverage technology is through generating insights from big data. This is being used for tracking the age and per­forma­nce of cars, predicting maintenance costs of cars based on historical data and even delivering information to fleet owners about petrol levels, and tyre pressure as well as  mapping maintenance time frames. This helps us in efficiently scaling and running our business across the country.

What opportunities have 5G and private mobile networks opened up for the transport se­c­tor in India? How are enterprises prepared to capture the potential of these innovations?

With the introduction of 5G, we find ourselves on the cusp of a transformative phase for technology, yet again. The internet technology is set to drastically enhance connected car features and lay the foundation for autonomous vehicles in India. The use of 5G will connect vehicles to vehicles, roadside infrastructure, road users and cloud services, resulting in an ecosystem that is enabled for automated monitoring of traffic, better navigation, improved safety and security.

In addition, 5G presents the opportunity to unlock the full potential of AI, ML, big data, blockchain and IoT technologies for the transportation sector. The initial pe­riod of adoption would entail a considerable amount of research and development of the multiple use cases that come with 5G and organisations will look to integrate technology through collaboration.

What are the major challenges while deploying advanced technologies in enterprises? How is system security and data privacy being en­sured amid rapid digital transformation?

There are several infrastructural developments yet to be made on a large scale to accommodate advances in technology. Meanwhile, most of the challenges pertain to the management and quality of data su­pplied to AI, blockchain and IoT systems, accurate interpretation of that data, consistency, relevance and proper implementation. Besides, there has been significant co­n­cern over security and data privacy, whi­ch finds its solution in blockchain te­ch­nology. Information is stored and shar­ed in a secure and transparent way on blo­ck­chain. Thus, convergence among IoT, AI, ML and blo­ckchain presents a tremendous potential for the automotive industry in ensuring security and data privacy for customers.

What, according to you, will be key digital trends that will reshape the sector in the next three years?

The future landscape of mobility continues to be reshaped by digital technology in myriad ways. A key trend shaping future mobility is electrification, a switch from traditional internal combustion engines to battery electric vehicles. While governme­nts across the world are adopting and im­ple­menting strategies to promote this transformation, automobile manufacturers have commenced production of EVs. However, implementing total electrification is only possible with the collaboration between stakeholders and public institutions to develop the mobility infrastructure critical to achieve the benefits of emerging technology.

Meanwhile, near-universal data structures, data security and data privacy are bound to take centre stage, as more seamless data sharing and interoperability of systems across stakeholders are developed for incorporating into the ecosystem of original equipment manufacturers, fleet owners and users. The inclusion of technologies such as AI, ML, IoT and block­chain, data transactions and sharing will be discerning for the proper functioning of the ecosystem and ensure safety and security for users.

Another intriguing trend for the future of mobility is “servitisation”. The concept of servitisation prioritises access to mobility over private ownership. The future of mo­bility, thus, may function differently from the traditional methods and enable different modes of transportation according to users’ nee­ds. Conse­quently, mobility-as-a-ser­vice providers will leverage their platforms to provide multiple mobility optio­ns through a single payment channel, allo­wing users to rent a car for a few ho­urs, ride a bike for the next and avail public transport on the way back home.