The story so far: On June 24, Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari approved a Draft GSR (general statutory rules) Notification seeking comments on a proposal to introduce the Bharat New Car Assessment Program (Bharat-NCAP). It would accord vehicles a star rating based on their performance in crash tests. They are intended to increase the export-worthiness of vehicles and competition on safety parameters among manufacturers, as well as instil consumer confidence in their safety. “Bharat NCAP will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar with the mission of making India the Number 1 automobile hub in the world,” he tweeted.
What is the purpose of an NCAP?
New Car Assessment Programs (NCAPs) provide globally reliable information about the crash safety of a vehicle based on certain common criteria and procedures. This then helps vehicles acquire a foothold in international markets. They are separate from country-specific motor standards in the sense that the latter restricts itself to assessing the vehicle’s roadworthiness and not necessarily how it would ensure safety in a collision. However, a zero rating in an NCAP cannot prevent a car from being sold in any geography.
Global NCAP is a standardised platform establishing cooperation and coordination among NCAPs internationally whereas regional NCAPs take into account specific local conditions. A car may have attained a good rating elsewhere but it might not be the case in another geography because of potentially separate manufacturing origins and quality. The nature of the domestic markets also matter — consumers may prefer a car with reduced safety specifications for there is greater insistence on affordability.
How would the vehicles be evaluated?
The voluntary Bharat NCAP would assign vehicles between one and five stars on parameters such as Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), Child Occupant Protection (COP) and Safety Assist Technologies (SAT). It would study frontal impact, side impact and the possibility of a door opening after a crash. The potential impact is studied with the help of dummies, of pre-specified measurements, placed inside the vehicle. The car is crashed into an aluminium deformable barrier impersonating an opposing force of the same magnitude — a crash-like situation, with a 40% overlap.
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. Even though the existing regulations adhere to United Nations Regulation 94 for collision testing, its absence in domestic testing norms, and inadequate side protection in vehicles (such as airbags), has been often cited as reasons for the poor performance of Indian vehicles at NCAPs.
After the test collision, to assess adult protection, the dummy would be checked for injuries on the head, neck, chest, knee, pelvis area, lower leg, foot and ankle. Whether the airbags protect the occupant’s head that moves forward reflexively in the aftermath of a collision would be evaluated. There must not be any rib compression or injury to the knee joint. Additionally, full or partial ejection of an occupant because of a door opening is negatively marked.
For assessing child protection, the NCAP would evaluate the impact to a child restraint system (CRS) and airbag safety. CRS are portable seats designed to protect children during vehicle collisions. Vehicles that can accommodate a broad variety of child seats available in the domestic market would be rewarded. 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.
Higher ratings would be accorded to vehicles with a permanent warning label on frontal airbags. Sudden braking may propel a child in the front row towards the dashboard, against an airbag which is inflating at an immense speed and having huge volume, causing injury or death. Cars must have manual switches to disable airbags which should not be within the child’s reach.
What does it hold for the domestic automobile industry?
The proposed move follows Mr. Gadkari’s focus on “zero tolerance for road accidents.” In February this year, he had said efforts must be made to reduce road accidents by 50% by the year 2025.
With respect to Bharat NCAP, Hemal Thakkar, Director for Transport, Logistics and Mobility at analytics firm CRISIL, said that consumers will have to prepare for an increase in vehicle prices, but will also get safer vehicles. “There could be a dent to the price sensitive lower compact segment as muted income growth has already increased pressure on this segment which will get further accentuated on account of this move,” he stated. Vinkesh Gulati, President of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA), believes that having the 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. “There were Indian OEMS (original equipment manufacturers) who were giving lot of importance to passenger safety and getting their vehicle tested under Global NCAP, but lot of MNC OEMs were not interested in this,” Mr. Gulati said. He suggested that the grading system be made mandatory for all OEMs so that the choice is entirely left to the customer.
Addressing the issue of export-worthiness, Mr. Thakkar said that the proposed norm may not make a difference, since any vehicle that is exported to the EU or North America needs to be homologated in the respective country. However, India exports a lot of passenger vehicles to Africa and Latin America, because of which prices of vehicles would increase, he said.
If the Bharat NCAP is implemented, domestic testing agencies would conduct tests for M1 category of vehicles, that is, passenger vehicles having not more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat, and weighing less than 3.50 tonnes — imported or domestically manufactured. If cleared, it would be applicable from April 1, 2023.
- On June 24, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari approved a Draft GSR (general statutory rules) Notification seeking comments on a proposal to introduce the Bharat New Car Assessment Program (Bharat-NCAP)
- New Car Assessment Programs (NCAP) provide reliable information about the crash safety of a vehicle based on certain common criteria and procedures. This then helps vehicles acquire a foothold in international markets
- Bharat NCAP would assign vehicles between one and five stars on parameters such as Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), Child Occupant Protection (COP) and Safety Assist Technologies (SAT).