Bengaluru start-up unveils zPod autonomous driving concept

Minus Zero claims zPod will help reduce traffic congestion and road accidents using its proprietary self-driving tech.

By Satvik Khare, Autocar India calendar 04 Jun 2023 Views icon7809 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Minus Zero, a Bengaluru-based, autonomous driving start-up has unveiled the zPod, which it claims is India’s first autonomous vehicle. It showcases the full-self driving tech developed by the aritifical intelligence (AI) firm. Minus Zero says it's not an automotive manufacturer, rather it’s a tech firm that will provide its autonomous driving tech to other manufacturers to help improve their ADAS suite. 

The zPod is merely a technological showcase of what Minus Zero is trying to achieve. The firm claims its motives are to reduce traffic congestion as well as road accidents and the injuries and fatalities associated with them. Unlike many autonomous vehicles, the zPod does not employ the use of LIDAR (light detection and ranging) but instead uses an array of six cameras – four on the sides and two at the front and back. 

The firm also showcased its True Vision Autonomy concept that uses the aforementioned cameras as its sensors to navigate obstacles. Minus Zero also says that it can be adapted to any existing vehicle form factor, be it EVs or ICE. According to the company, its autonomous driving tech could also be retrofitted to existing cars on the road, provided they come with an engine control module.

Minus Zero claims that it will solve a few key problems faced during the development of autonomous vehicles with its new form of AI it calls Nature Inspired AI (NIA). These problems include expensive hardware, the requirement of extensive data, and navigation through complex traffic conditions as well as unruly infrastructure. Minus Zero says the current paradigm used in AI development is prone to fail in conditions it is not trained in. The firm says it will employ the use of physics-aware vision and predictive-decision making like a human brain. 

Minus Zero zPod concept

As mentioned, the zPod is an autonomous vehicle that can drive in any geographical and environmental condition using its camera suite. Minus Zero claims it can scale up to autonomous level 5 – basically have no human intervention while driving in real-world conditions – with its AI tech. 

The zPod is a four-seater electric vehicle that has its seats facing each other and does not feature any controls and layout of a conventional car. All of the driving is done by the AI and it processes all of the information captured by the images captured by the cameras in real-time to make an informed decision. The use of the camera suite will help bring down the costs, claims Minus Zero. 

Minus Zero says the near future use case of the zPod and its AI tech will be limited to in-campus mobility – transportation within the confines of a geo-fence, away from public roads. The zPod can be used in places like educational campuses, residential areas, tech parks, etc. 

Will Minus Zero zPod see production?

Interestingly, Minus Zero claims it has no intention to put the zPod into production and that it was merely a showcase of the AI-based autonomous driving technology it has developed.

The firm also says the zPod can be an inspiration for automakers to explore new possibilities for vehicle design that are not driver-centric. According to Minus Zero, this type of vehicle design will help humans interact in a nature intended to – face to face. 

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