Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Introduction of Autonomous Vehicles in India

*Prepared by Vishal Vinod, intern at Centre for Public Policy Research

An autonomous vehicle is one that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating through the roads without any manual human input. The Society of Autonomous Engineers (SAE) has created a method to classify cars, whether automated or not, into six levels as given below.

In the first three levels, the driver monitors the driving environment. Level Zero cars have no automation, with only the ability to give warnings. In Level One, the driver and the system share control of the vehicle. For example, the ‘Adaptive Cruise Control’- where the steering is controlled by the driver and the speed is controlled by the system. Level Two cars have partial automation where the system is capable of taking full control of the vehicle, but the driver must monitor the car at all times and must be willing to intervene at any moment.

In the last three levels of the classification, the automated driving system is capable of monitoring the driving environment. Level Three has conditional automation where the driver can safely withdraw from most driving tasks. However, the driver will be given the notice to intervene when there is a dynamic driving task that the system cannot handle. Levels 4 and 5 are very similar with no need for human intervention. But all roadway and environmental conditions can be handled by the system in Level 5, unlike Level 4 vehicles.

What is the current status of these vehicles? 
Autonomous vehicles are in the testing stage in many countries. In some countries, testing is only allowed in less populated suburbs, while in other countries, testing on public roads is allowed. Fleet operators have to closely monitor the vehicles to ensure safety in all the countries. In the US, testing is carried out on public roads; recently an autonomous car operated by Uber crashed into a person causing death. This raised major concerns regarding the safety of autonomous cars and subsequently Uber withdrew their robo-taxis from California. Following this, Baidu had received permission in China to start testing in the less populated suburbs. It has also been confirmed that Baidu’s autonomous buses called Apalong will start operating in Japan in 2019. Along with this, there are teasers by Elon Musk that imply the release of Level 5 cars by Tesla. It is clear that this technology will be significant in the coming days and will soon be approved in many counties.

The possibility of Autonomous vehicles in India
Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport says, “We are not going to promote any technology or policy that will render people jobless”. According to him, India has a shortage of 2,200,000 drivers and to meet the current demand of drivers they will open 100 ‘Driver Training Institutes’ and hope to create 500,000 jobs for drivers in the next five years.

However, in contrast to what Gadkari has said, The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2017 has to a certain degree accepted the possibility of autonomous vehicles. As per a section in the bill, “In order to promote innovation and research and development in the fields of vehicular engineering, mechanically propelled vehicles and transportation in general, the Central Government may exempt certain types of mechanically propelled vehicles from the application of the provisions of this Act”.

I absolutely disagree with the Union Minister’s view that technology would result in job losses. According to a study by Deloitte in the UK, technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. Between 1992 and 2014, there was a 79 percent drop in weavers and knitters from 24,009 to 4,961, a 57 percent drop in typists, and a 50 percent drop in company secretaries. But on the other hand, there was a 580 percent increase in teaching and educational support assistants, 183 percent increase in welfare, housing, youth and community workers, and a 168 percent increase in care workers and home carers. Surprisingly, while in 1871 there was one hairdresser or barber for every 1,793 citizens of England and Wales, today there is one for every 287 people (The Guardian, 2015). So, to say that technology would result in job losses is meaningless as technology has proven that alternative jobs will always be created.

I hope in the light of these facts we can look past job losses being a major hindrance to the introduction of this technology in India. Another factor that is significant for a technology of this kind to be successfully introduced into the market is acceptance by the people. According to a survey conducted by KPMG, Indians are the most accepting towards autonomous vehicle technology. Thus there may not be much resistance from the people at large when the technology comes to India.

Moreover, the automobile market has also anticipated the arrival of autonomous vehicles in India. Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber has positively said that autonomous vehicles will be in their network in India by next year. There are also a few start-up companies in India which are working on the self-driving technology. It is therefore evident that the market is already moving towards autonomous vehicles. 

When a revolutionary technology such as autonomous vehicles is expected to come into the market, policymakers must be smart enough to make regulations that ensure their smooth passage. Efficient policy making can be based on two principles. The first principle envisions autonomous vehicles as the primary mode of transportation in some areas, or as the “first mile, last mile” connectivity mode to and from railway stations, metro stations, bus stops etc. 

The second principle is based on the potential of autonomous vehicles to free people from the task of driving, road congestion, parking and other expenses such as purchasing a vehicle insurance etc. People will only accept this technology if they feel that they get more freedom as an incentive from it (The Economist, 2018). This could in turn encourage people to use public transport more often. I believe India, being one of the largest economies and the second most populous country in the world, should not be hostile to this upcoming technology, or there will be serious economic and environmental setbacks.

* Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Placemaking gives meaning to the space

*Prepared by Srinidhi Hariharan, intern at Centre for Public Policy Research

Placemaking is an approach to city planning where the citizens and the local community are involved in driving projects and events to bring the community together. It derives ideas from the local community and the neighbourhood in which the project takes place, so that the people living in the area are actively involved in the project.

Placemaking is about driving change in public spaces and involving people around a public space to understand and experience it through first hand exposure. It is a concept developed by William H Whyte and requires vision and group effort. 

An example of a placemaking project is one where the local community is involved in painting the surroundings to beautify public spaces, thereby providing a means to activate the public realm and encourage more people to come together and utilize the public space and express interest in improving their neighbourhood. Community based participation is the key to driving change and an effective way to promote people’s well-being and happiness.

Placemaking was the result of findings which showed that people have deep meanings and associations with the places they visit and gather on a regular basis thereby giving life to the concept of ‘place.’ For instance, when a person visits a garden for the first time, it might not be as appealing to him/ her compared to when he/ she visits it on a regular basis. There is no sense of attachment the first time a person visits a public space, as it is a ‘space’ of unfamiliarity.However, if the public space is well maintained and the person connects with it on the first visit, it is likely that they will continue to visit it on a regular basis. The public space has now become a public ‘place’ of deeper meaning for the person. Placemaking draws on this concept of ‘place’ to bring people closer to their public spaces.

Through placemaking, place attachment is formed which creates an emotional bond between the person and the place that they are attached to. Place attachment can varybetween people because it is reliant on unique personal experiences. However, when a person is attached to a place, it is likely that they will spread information about that particular public space, which will in turn increase the number of visitors and contribute towards the growth of the public space.

Many places which have been through urban degradation use placemaking to renew their cities and urban spaces.The Capitol Complex of Chandigarh which was built by Le Corbusier has acted as a very significant public space for the people of the city. The Urban Festival held in Chandigarh in 2018 was a sign of placemaking, albeit to a limited extent, as it was not completely organised by the community. During the Urban Festival 2018, the Capitol Complexwas well lit andheld many events initiated by the people of Chandigarh, thereby bringing them together. India needs more placemaking initiatives like this which will bring people together and also provide significance to the public space and its architecture.

The concept of placemaking is growing around the world as public spaces gain more recognition. Placemaking focuses on providing meaningful places to people where they feel comfortable and at ease. When the community involves itself in organising various events, theresult is a higher sense of pride and place attachment to the public space. As people continually utilize a space, the meaning and significance of the place increases, resulting in the creation of an emotional bond between the people and the public space. This is important if people want to make the most of their cities and the public spaces they provide. Placemaking has thus proven to engage and contribute towards activated places for the people.

* Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Skill Development and Job Creation

By Ispita Mishra*
The term ‘Youth’ as defined by the UNESCO – is “the period of transition from dependence to independence and awareness of our independence as members of a community”. India is a young nation with nearly 65 percent of its population under 35 years old[i]. However, this demographic dividend might prove to be dangerous, rather than a boon, as India lacks severely in employment, skills and opportunities.
Indian youth can contribute to higher economic growth; their potential must be aided by substantial policy orientation. The sustainable empowerment of youth can be ensured through the four pillars of education, skills and employment, temperamental change and government policy.
But the number of jobs created annually is inadequate to absorb this growing population of youth in the labour market. Currently, the youth unemployment rate (15-24 years) is 10.1 percent. 43 percent of India’s youth are not in employment, education or training[ii]. The labour market has a lot of informal employment (93 per cent) with just about eight per cent working in the formal sector. 
According to the Annual Report 2016-17, The National Youth Policy 2014 reiterates the commitment of the entire nation to the all-round development of the youth to enable them to realise their full potential and contribute productively to the nation building process. Several new schemes have been launched recently to encourage entrepreneurship among the youth. These include StartUp India, StandUp India, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, Start Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan.
Skill India partnered with Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare to empower rural youth through scalable skilling and also empowered more than 35 lakh women. 3.16 lakh candidates were placed under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal VikasYojana(PMKVY 2016-20) in less than two years of its launch.
Despite these multiple efforts, India has formally trained just 4.69 percent of the total workforce (15-59 years of age) of about 487 million people in India.[iii] The government’s own data suggests that only about 80,000 people or less than five percent of the total trained candidates were able to secure a placement.
The ministry said it had certified 612,000 candidates who completed training under the PMKVY-2 and 52 per cent of them had been placed. PMKVY-2 aims to spend Rs12,000 crore on skill training 10 million youth between 2016 and 2020.However, the 52 per cent placement record including self-employment and entrepreneurship is way below the mandatory placement requirement of 70 per cent under PMKVY-2.[iv]
Challenges faced
First, industry interface is inadequate and is one of the major issues facing the vocational education and training system in India.[1] Research has also found that the National Skills Development Council has not been able to synchronise course curriculum with industry needs.[v]There is lack of motivated teachers and mentors of quality. 
There is an interfering and overpowering political and bureaucratic setup, outdated and rigid curriculum, non-uniformity in curricula, and limited laboratory based education, especially in basic sciences, which makes the youth disinterested.  Lack of interdisciplinary approach in imparting education makes them unable to use their knowledge practically. Neither the industry nor other stakeholders are consulted in designing the curriculum.
Second, the Indian labour market is not only creating inadequate jobs, but discriminates against recruiting females. Nearly one-third of females did not receive a job offer compared to 15 percent of males.[vi] Women constitute about 48 per cent of the total population but their participation in the labour force is just about 22 per cent.
Third, the challenges of funding, patents and creation of intellectual property remain.  The long process of registration of patents and lack of incentives for research and development is a reason why many start-ups prefer to be domiciled abroad.  Around 90 per cent of funding for start-ups comes from foreign venture capital. According to a recent study, over 94 per cent of new businesses fail during the first year of operation.
Fourth, there is no standardisation of certification of skills training. As there is lack of clarity of available programmes, the employers also lack trust in the integrity and quality of training.  Third party audits are missing and candidates are often not interested in the jobs they get. Moreover, the placement agencies are more focussed on maximising recruitment without adhering to quality standards.
Fifth, there is a major skew in favour of a handful of states when it comes to training candidates. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship claims that the large gap in the number of those trained and those placed is due to “incomplete data” and that it is taking steps to rectify the matter.
Finally, there is no attention given to skills that will allow individuals to grow. There is no focus on creativity, interpersonal skills etc.
For India to have inclusive growth and fully utilise the potential of its demographic dividend, it must find effective ways of skilling its youth.Or else our huge population is in danger of turning out to be a burden rather than a boon.

* Ispita Mishra is Research Assistant at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

[i]Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
[iii]Report of the committee for rationalization & optimization of the functioning of the sector skill councils 2017
[v]Team Lease Services 2018
[vi]Soledad ArtizPrillman et al, 2017, “What Constrains Young Indian Women’s Participation? Evidence form a Survey of Vocational Trainees.