"We started working with Vodafone in 2011, two years before the official launch of the car," Gopal explains. "Vodafone supplied us with the connections we needed for our tests, effectively linking the cars to a range of applications that we were in the process of developing."
At this point, there was a big impetus to find out whether the service was going to be robust and reliable.
"We worked very closely with Vodafone throughout the development period, particularly when it came to testing the connectivity and the overall performance of the network," says Gopal. "For example, we had some initial issues with connections in a factory in a remote area. Because Vodafone owns its own network, and has its own in-house team of M2M specialists, the problem was fixed straight away.
"Overall it was a great example of collaborative working between two companies with a similar vision of global innovation," Gopal continues. "Indeed, this is the first and only project of its kind in India where a telecom service provider and an automotive manufacturer have joined hands to bring a major advance in technology to market."
Mahindra REVA's connected car--the Mahindra e2o--first launched in India in March 2013. There are already 350 e2o's on the road, all connected to a range of applications and services via the Vodafone network. This means owners are able to access various features and functions of their vehicle remotely using a smartphone app or from a dedicated webpage. By doing so they can check the state of charge in the battery of their car, control its air-conditioning, lock or unlock doors, find the nearest charging station and more. The e2o also provides the owner with automatic SMS text alerts on a variety of safety and security checks, such as a door left unlocked, or a parking brake not applied.
In addition, Mahindra REVA's service team is also using the remote connectivity to track potential maintenance issues in real time and proactively warn drivers when they may need to book in for repairs or a service.
According to Gopal, this is all part of a package that is really pleasing customers. "The reaction we've had from people that have bought or driven the vehicles so far has been very positive," says Gopal. "Many of the features we have introduced are 'firsts' for the Indian market--such as the remote diagnostics and a charging station locator. They are proving to be a real hit with technology-savvy customers that want their car to fit with their connected and busy lifestyle."
Looking to the future
Over the next few years Mahindra REVA forecasts that sales of the e2o will reach over 30,000. In fact it has built a new factory in Bangalore that's capable of producing 30,000 of the cars a year.
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