Future-Driven: Key Technology Trends Shaping the Automotive Sector Beyond 2024

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with ASDC’s Vice President – Mr. Vinkesh Gulati

Q1. In your opinion, what are the technology trends that you anticipate will shape the automotive sector in 2024 and beyond?

When discussing the anticipated technological changes in the auto sector, the first major aspect to consider is customer expectations. Customers now demand vehicles as advanced as their mobile devices or smart homes. They want features that integrate seamlessly with their mobile activities, such as voice commands and remote control functionalities.

Customers expect vehicles equipped with the latest features available in global markets. Although some vehicles have these advanced features, many models still lack them. However, this will change as more connected cars and automated features become standard. For instance, while only a few cars currently allow users to control the AC or start the engine via mobile apps, such features will soon become commonplace.

Additionally, there are still many cars without ventilated seats and other technological advancements, but these will soon be widespread. Alongside comfort features, safety technologies will also advance. Basic safety features mandated by government regulations will be complemented by more sophisticated technology-supported safety features. For example, the evolution of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) will enhance vehicle safety, making cars more responsive to potential collisions.

From a customer interaction perspective, there will be a shift towards more digital touchpoints. Customers will increasingly prefer to manage the vehicle buying and servicing process online, visiting dealerships only for delivery or essential services.

On the manufacturing side, significant technological changes will occur in the fuel sector. Beyond current options like CNG, petrol, diesel, and EVs, we will see more hybrids and biofuels, and possibly hydrogen. These advancements will lead to lighter vehicles with better weight-to-output ratios, enhancing efficiency and reducing emissions.

The automotive industry is transitioning from being predominantly mechanical to being technology-driven, with a significant focus on software. While most software updates currently require physical presence, over-the-air updates are becoming more common, particularly in new models and electric vehicles. As technology advances, discussions will shift from engine specifications to software capabilities, emphasizing features like auto-sensing rearview mirrors and other smart technologies.

Environmental sustainability remains a core focus. Technological advancements in hybrids, CNG, and electric vehicles align with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 or sooner. Vehicles undergo regular wear and tear in varied climates and road conditions, requiring continuous technological monitoring to maintain quality and compliance with pollution norms. This ongoing evolution aims to ensure all vehicles, including diesel ones, adhere to stringent environmental standards.

The future of the auto sector lies in integrating advanced technologies, enhancing customer convenience, and prioritizing environmental sustainability.

Q2. Can you describe the changes and evolution in the skill landscape of the automotive industry over the past 10 years? What are some of the positive outcomes and any challenges or gaps that still exist?

So, while it might seem like we’ve made significant progress, growing exponentially from the past, it’s incorrect to say we’ve reached an advanced stage. We are still in the early phases, especially regarding skill development and training in the auto industry. Traditionally, training focused on specific tasks, like how to properly tighten a nut, without broader contextual understanding.

However, with recent advancements and changes, more comprehensive training is essential. In the past, manufacturing was straightforward, with a single model and color produced on a line, requiring minimal thought from workers. Now, production lines are more dynamic, handling different models, colors, and configurations in sequence. This shift demands greater flexibility and cognitive engagement from workers.

As vehicle production and sales have increased, so has the complexity of the manufacturing process, necessitating a more skilled workforce. Workers now need to understand variations in models and specifications, not just perform repetitive tasks.

Additionally, the industry’s manpower needs have evolved. There was a time when only BTech graduates were considered for jobs, then diploma holders. Now, even 10th or 12th-grade graduates can be employed if they receive proper training. This shift emphasizes the growing importance of skill development.

Despite our growth from a low base, we are still at a nascent stage. India, with its abundant manpower, has the potential to be a global supplier of skilled labor, much like in the IT industry. However, in the auto sector, we have a long way to go.

The Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC) is making efforts to address this gap by training and sending skilled workers abroad. We have partnerships with countries like Australia and Germany, and companies like Volvo and Eicher are also involved. These initiatives mark the beginning of progress in the right direction, but it will take time to see substantial results.

While we’ve made strides, there’s still much work to be done to fully develop our workforce and meet the demands of the evolving auto industry.

Q3. As the automotive industry is set to be impacted by technological advancements such as electrification, and digitalization, do you believe there will be a need to re-evaluate and overhaul the current skill set required in the industry?

As the Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC), we have a mandate to update our course curriculum every two years. However, in practice, we update it continuously to keep pace with industry changes. For instance, while we initially updated our curriculum to include electric vehicles (EVs), we soon incorporated hybrid technology as well, reflecting the latest market needs without waiting for the two-year cycle.

Our approach emphasizes practical skills over traditional education. Being skilled directly translates to employability, efficiency, and productivity, which ultimately contributes to India’s economic growth. The more skilled individuals we produce, the more they can contribute to the nation’s progress, enhancing both the workforce and the economy.

In addition to our hybrid course, we have recently developed new courses to stay ahead of industry changes. For example, we’ve partnered with the CBSE to introduce an auto Olympiad for students from grades 6 to 12, fostering early interest in the automotive sector. We are also working on integrating automotive-related AI courses into B.Tech mechanical programs. These initiatives aim to instill skills at an early stage, ensuring students have the capability to pursue skilled jobs in the future.

Furthermore, we are influencing the education system by incorporating automotive subjects into school curricula, providing students with hands-on training and lab experience. This comprehensive approach not only prepares students for potential careers in the automotive industry but also equips them with valuable skills regardless of their career path.

We at ASDC are committed to continuously updating our curriculum to meet industry demands and integrating skill development into the education system. This ensures that we produce a workforce capable of driving India’s economic growth and technological advancement.

Q4. How are the skill sets being managed for the after-sales and service networks? A lot of retraining and reskilling would be required there, wouldn’t it?

Absolutely. One of the most crucial aspects of the automotive industry is the service and support that follow the sale of a vehicle. This is where significant challenges can arise. While the initiatives with schools and colleges aim to address future needs, the immediate focus is on well-defined sectors.

We regularly update our curriculum to include small, targeted courses on EVs, hybrids, and other emerging technologies. We’ve collaborated with several manufacturers like Hero for two-wheeler mechanics, Toyota for four-wheeler mechanics, and Volvo for commercial vehicle mechanics. Additionally, we have partnerships with Mahindra and others to provide comprehensive training programs that include curriculum development, certification, training, and assessment.

Our approach ensures that as the industry evolves, so does the knowledge and skills of the workforce. For instance, there’s been concern about the adequacy of technicians servicing electric vehicles. While I don’t fully agree with all the criticisms, it’s clear that we need more qualified EV technicians to meet the growing demand. We’re actively working to bridge this gap.

Our affiliated training centers offer a range of programs, not just for technicians but also for roles like painters, denters, tinkers, and service advisors. This comprehensive training approach ensures that our graduates are well-prepared and often find employment readily, given the high demand driven by growing sales. Many new training centers are opening to accommodate this need.

ASDC is committed to continuously updating and expanding our training programs to meet the evolving demands of the automotive industry, ensuring a skilled workforce that can support the sector’s growth and technological advancements.

Q5. Can you share some of the major initiatives and programs that your council has implemented in recent years to address the changing needs and demands of the automotive industry?

ASDC has executed numerous significant initiatives and programs in recent years to cater to the evolving skill demands within the Indian automotive industry. The council’s strategy revolves around developing qualifications and curricula utilizing National Occupation Standards (NOS) sanctioned by the National Skill Qualifications Committee under NCVET. A notable ASDC initiative is the Electric Mobility Nanodegree Programme, a six-month collaboration with DIYguru, an online learning platform, designed for individuals holding an engineering or diploma background. Furthermore, partnerships with Autobot India and MG Motor have led to the creation of the Dakshta training program, focusing on artificial intelligence and EVs, preparing skilled workers for the automotive industry. Autobot Academy’s collaborative effort with MG Motor and ASDC, termed ‘EV Engineering: Architecture and Components,’ aims to future-proof job seekers in the EV technology sector.

Currently, ASDC has a significant partnership for electric vehicle training with the German company GIZ. Through this collaboration, we train ITI technicians on electric vehicle technologies, and this initiative, started two years ago, has seen substantial progress.

On the women’s empowerment front, we launched Project Shakti in collaboration with the Bihar Skill Development Mission (DSDM). This project has trained 350 women in e-car driving, supporting their livelihoods and families. Out of these, 150 women have already secured employment, and the rest are in the placement process.

Additionally, we initiated Project Saksham with Hero MotoCorp, focusing on training women as two-wheeler technicians. Our goal is to train at least 100,000 women over the next five years. Currently, we aim to empower around 4,000 women through this training program, encouraging greater female participation in the auto industry. While major manufacturers have relatively better gender ratios, the representation of women decreases further down the supply chain. ASDC is striving to address this imbalance and make a meaningful impact in the skilling landscape.

Q6. How does ASDC support both industry and job seekers through its sector-specific programs and initiatives?

ASDC’s focused programs empower India’s automotive sector by developing and certifying industry-relevant skills, facilitating training, and connecting job seekers with employers. Through unique initiatives, job seekers can enhance their employability by identifying required skills, training, certification, and participation in job fairs. The council’s placement portal fosters interactions between job seekers and employers, while its job fairs offer direct job opportunities within the automotive industry.