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Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

The future of transportation design in India

Physical systems, artificial intelligence will play a very important role in the future of car design

For the past 50 years, we have been using resources on this planet faster than we can replace them. Design can help us reverse this trend by changing the design process, products, and the resources used to make them. People are discovering that sustainable design is pivotal for innovation and potential profits rather than doing just enough to stay within regulations. Smart technology is essential for improving the environment we live in.

Today, vehicles are responsible for serious environmental consequences. It is estimated that there are already 1.2 billion motor vehicles on the roads around the world. Transportation is becoming essential to our functionality. Creating clean and green mobility is of critical importance to any city in today’s day and age. Design issues are not just technical but are also connected to cultural and deeper socio-economic sensibilities. Today, the challenges in the area of mobility are partly technical, but there are also several other challenges. For example, figuring out appropriate energy storage methods, the right kind of design techniques, and optimizing processes for developing a system.

However, the biggest challenge is to factor in the human aspect of mobility. Keeping this in mind, the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, launched its Transportation and Automobile Design Postgraduate Programme in 2006. This programme aims to develop highly creative individuals to resolve the future challenges around mobility by imparting relevant skills and knowledge to them.

The programme places strong emphasis on environmental, socio-economic and cultural aspects of transportation, with a learning curve that focuses on understanding automobiles. This includes aesthetics, exterior and interior design, human factors, vehicle packaging, and display and control among others. We aim to tackle the broader aspects and complexities around personal and public transportation.

Transportation and Automobile Design, in its true sense, is multi-disciplinary, where cutting-edge technology is used both in the technical and anthropological fields wherein inclusivity towards differently abled people has to be kept in mind. This requires a very strong 3D visualization of the product, rapid prototyping and immersive visualization in order to evaluate and take appropriate decisions for design and development.

The unique feature of NID’s Transportation and Automobile Design programme is to collaborate with the industry and work on live projects as a part of the curriculum to give a head start to students wishing to work as professional designers. It also serves to improve networking within the industry from an early stage. NID has produced creative talents who have joined the transportation and automobile industry in India and have also worked with some of the leading design studios abroad. Many of our graduates have also become successful entrepreneurs.

The significant milestones that the NID has achieved thus far have been signing an MoU with Pininfarina Italy, and being invited to participate in the FIAT Design competition, ‘Designing the Italian Way’, where an NID student won the Best Design Award for proposing an Alpha Romeo concept. This has boosted the confidence of the NID student community tremendously.

In March 2009, NID collaborated with Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE), which is a corporate alliance between General Motors, Autodesk, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens and Oracle. NID students have won several awards for their concepts under PACE initiatives.

We are now at a crossroads with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is bound to alter our lifestyles and work environment. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a phase where the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres will intersect.

The future of transportation design in the world is going to be based on these parameters, where physical systems and artificial intelligence play a very important role. In the given situation, we need to critically examine the complex nature of the social fabric and the infrastructure of our cities and towns in India. These products and services have to be inclusive and should not disrupt the harmony between various groups of people.

We must view technology as an enabler to provide safety, comfort, efficiency and environmental friendly options that are adapted to cultural diversity. Most importantly, it should empower the people and keep human morals and ethics intact.

The importance of system-level thinking is greater than that of product-level development. Today, the focus is on Smart Cities. One has to interpret ‘smart’ intelligently. In this endeavour, we need to keep the diverse socio-economic backgrounds in mind. We need to nurture interdependency for inclusive development. Inclusive development will result in a more harmonious society and the future of transportation in smart cities needs to take care of all these components. We need to create a future that works for one and all.

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