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The proposal for an India-specific norm for assessing vehicular safety in collision

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    16th Jul, 2022

Context

The government approved a Draft GSR (general statutory rules) notification seeking comments on a proposal to introduce the Bharat New Car Assessment Program (Bharat-NCAP).

Background

  • The introduction of the Bharat NCAP would entail giving vehicles a star rating based on their performance in crash tests.
  • The voluntary programme aligns existing test regulations at home with global crash testing protocols. 

Analysis

What is Bharat NCAP?

  • It is a new car safety assessment programme(NCAP).
  • It proposes a mechanism of awarding ‘Star Ratings’ to automobiles based upon their performance in crash tests.
  • The proposed assessment will allocate Star Ratings from 1 to 5 stars.

Why Car Safety Star Ratings is important?

  • Car Safety Star Ratings were earlier made visible on cars. The ratings could be equated to efficiency ratings in AC, fridge, and other electronics used in car.
  • It helped customers to decide, what they wanted in their budget.
  • BNCAP standard is aligned with global benchmarks and it is beyond minimum regulatory requirements.
  • Rollout: BNCAP will be rolled out from April 1, 2023.
  • Applicability: It will be applicable on type-approved motor vehicles of category M1 with gross vehicle weight less than 3.5 tonnes, manufactured or imported in the country.
    • M1 category motor vehicles are used for the carriage of passengers, comprising eight seats, in addition to driver’s seat.

Global new car assessment programs (NCAP)

  • Global NCAP was established in 2011 and is a project of the U.K.-based Towards Zero Foundation. 
  • The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was the first to come up with an NCAP in 1978.
  • The Australasian NCAP was created in 1993 1978, Japan NCAP in 1995, Euro NCAP in 1997, Korean NCAP in 1999, China NCAP in 2006, Latin NCAP in 2010 and ASEAN NCAP in 2011.  
  • It is a standardized platform establishing cooperation and coordination among new car assessment programs (NCAPs) globally for universal adoption of the United Nations’ standards for vehicular safety.
  • It provides reliable information about the crash safety of a vehicle based on certain common criteria and procedures.
  • In turn, this helps the vehicle acquire a foothold in international markets.
     

 How would the vehicles be evaluated?  

  • Parameters: Bharat NCAP would assign vehicles between one and five stars on parameters such as
    • Adult Occupant Protection (AOP)
    • Child Occupant Protection (COP)
    • Safety Assist Technologies (SAT)

Offset collisions are those where one side of a vehicle’s front end and not the full width hits the barrier.

  • It would study frontal impact, side impact and the possibility of a door opening up after a crash.
  • The major change proposed with the Bharat NCAP is the speed for frontal offset crash testing – at 64 kmph in comparison to the existing tests conducted at 56 kmph.

Criteria for star rating of vehicles:

The protocol varies among NCAPs. According to draft notification the voluntary Bharat NCAP would assign vehicles between one and five stars, based on full vehicle crash test in three categories

  • Adult occupant protection: After the test collision, the dummy would be checked for injuries on the head, neck, chest, knee, pelvis area, lower leg, foot and ankle. There must not be any rib compression or injury to the knee joint. 
  • Child occupant protection: For assessing child protection, the NCAP would evaluate the impact to a child restraint system (CRS) and airbag safety.

The child must not be ejected from the CRS and his/her head must be contained within the shell of the CRS preventing any outside blow following a crash.

Child restraint system

CRS are portable seats designed to protect children during vehicle collisions.

  • Safety assist technologies: Cars must have manual switches to disable airbags which should not be within the child’s reach.

 Mechanism: The car is crashed into an aluminium deformable barrier impersonating an opposing force of the same magnitude of a crash-like situation, with a 40% overlap.

  • Also, Bharat NCAP would conduct its frontal offset crash testing at 64 kmph instead of the prevailing 56 kmph norm.
  • Offset collisions are those where one side of a vehicle’s front and not the full width hits the barrier.

Incentives: Vehicles that can accommodate a broad variety of child seats available in the domestic market would be rewarded.

  • Higher ratings would be accorded to vehicles with a permanent warning label on frontal airbags

 Why does India need to crash-test vehicles?

  • Indian vehicles have historically not been crash-tested in the country.
  • Despite being home to only 1% of the world’s vehicles, India shoulders 11% of the global road crash fatality burden, according to the non-profit Save Life Foundation.

NCRB Data

  • India recorded 3, 54,796 cases of road accidents during 2020 in which 1, 33,201 people died and 3, 35,201 were injured.
  • The government data showed that more than 60% of road accidents were caused due to over speeding, accounting for 75,333 deaths and 2, 09,736 were injured.

Why safety is not the priority?

  • Structural issues: Vehicles sold in India are often sub-par in terms of safety features like? the requisite?number?of?airbags, and have unstable structures, unable to protect their occupants in the event of a road crash.
  • More focus on price: Price sensitive market allows car makers to focus on price than safety because Indians prefer budget friendly vehicles.
  • Lack of regulation: India’s Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) mandate a safety and performance assessment. However, this does not involve a crash test rating.

Expected Benefits

  • Export worthiness: It is intended to increase the export-worthiness of vehicles and competition on safety parameters among manufacturers, as well as instill consumer confidence in their safety.
  • Reduction in road accidents: India aims to reduce road accidents and deaths by 50 percent by 2030.
  • Passenger safety: It will ensure structural and passenger safety in cars.
  • Help in making India atmanirbhar: This program will make automobile industry in India Atma Nirbhar and will make India the top automobile hub worldwide.

How is BNCAP aligned with GNCAP?

How BNCAP is different from other NCAPs?

  • Bharat NCAP’s testing protocol to be aligned with global crash-test protocols keeping in mind the Indian regulations.
  • Auto firms in India currently follow AIS-145, which enforces safety features to vehicles.

  • Additionally, Bharat NCAP will not be limited to passive safety tests and testing internal combustion engine vehicles, but also test and rate CNG and electric vehicles based on their crash performance.
  • Also, unlike other NCAP formats, which award separate star ratings for adult and child protection, BNCAP is likely to get a single unified rating for adult and child protection.

Summing Up

The proposed move follows India’s focus on “zero tolerance for road accidents”. India is striving to reduce road accidents by 50% by the year 2025.

Bharat NCAP rating criteria would emerge as a turning point in the domestic automotive sector in terms of product, technology and safety, since it would provide a platform that would test vehicular safety as per Indian conditions.

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