Crash tests are an important means to assess vehicle safety. There have been news reports that certain Indian cars have been poorly rated in the global NCAP ratings. But what are the mandatory crash tests in India? Are they any different from global norms? Here is an explainer.
In 2019 alone, about 4.37 lakh road accidents were reported in India resulting in more than 1.54 lakh deaths, the majority of them being persons aged 18 to 45 years. The number of deaths in such accidents has been on the rise since 2017. Road traffic injuries are among the leading causes of death, disabilities, and hospitalization. This calls for prioritizing road and vehicle safety in the country. Traditionally, people in the country had preferred cost & fuel efficiency over other safety features while making a choice for a four-wheeler. It is only recently that most of the vehicles, across versions, have started coming up with safety features like ABS, airbags, power windows, dead pedal, and perimeter alarms following the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH)’s orders.
Crash tests are conducted to assess Vehicle Safety
Crash tests are conducted to assess vehicle safety. Crash tests involve the collision of vehicles in a controlled environment in order to assess their safety. Impact tests between different forces are carried out to analyse the damage induced by impact forces at different velocities. These tests are usually performed between two vehicles or between a vehicle and an obstacle. The Central Government had enforced crash test norms in the country in 2015. The norms were made mandatory for all new cars from October 2017 and are on par with the UN standards. Safety rating scheme similar to Global NCAP has been introduced by the government known as Bharat New Car Safety Assessment Programme, abbreviated as BNVSAP. The Global NCAP or the New Car Assessment Programme is a UK based charity which rates cars on a scale of five stars based on its safety standards compliance for adults and children.
Different types of crash tests are performed on Vehicles
Different types of crash tests performed on vehicles such as frontal impact, side-impact, run-off road, pedestrian, rear-end, etc. In all these physical tests, dummies made with prescribed material in stipulated dimensions are used. This helps in measuring different forces and possible injuries to the driver, co-passenger- children or adult, or others on the road. The mandatory crash tests to be performed in India are offset frontal collision test and lateral collision test. These tests are performed at testing centres at Indore (NATRAX), Pune (ARAI), Manesar (iCAT), and Chennai (GARC), which have been set up under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project.
Offset frontal and lateral collision tests are the mandatory tests in India
Offset frontal test is performed by colliding a vehicle moving at a minimum speed of 56 km per hour against a deformable barrier made of Aluminium. The thickness and dimensions of the barrier should be as prescribed by the government. Dummies are placed in the front seat to assess the impact on the front portion of the vehicle. Different criteria based on the intensity of damage inflicted upon different parts of the human body have been drafted. Each criterion should be satisfied for the vehicle to be approved for safety. For example, Head Performance Criterion is considered satisfied only when there is no contact between the dummy’s head and any vehicle component during the test. Similar conditions exist for Neck, Thorax, Femur, and Tibia or the lower leg.
In the case of lateral collision test, the mobile deformable barrier is made to collide with the vehicle at a speed of 50km per hour. The dummy is placed on the front seat on the side where the collision is set to take place. Here, the impact of a collision when the front portion of a vehicle strikes the side of another is determined. Usually, the sides of a vehicle are not rigid enough as compared to the front and hence, the accidents can be more fatal. Similar to the conditions under frontal-offset impact, there are certain criteria and intensity of impact on different body parts which should be fulfilled. Likewise, tests for pedestrian safety and other road-users have been prescribed under BNVSAP.
As per Global NCAP, Indian made cars are lag on safety
Recently, the NCAP released the crash test results for some new Indian made cars. Maruti Suzuki S-Presso, Kia Seltos, and Hyundai Grand i10 Nios were among the poor performers. This brought attention to the safety issues concerning cars in the country. However, it has even been stated in the parliament that the assessment by NCAP is voluntary and that there is no provision under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules for compliance with these protocols. The NCAP test is carried out at a speed of 64 km per hour, higher than what is prescribed in the Indian rules implying that even though cars pass the Indian tests, it may fail in the global NCAP. Global NCAP has even started a campaign with the hashtag #SafercarsforIndia similar to that for Africa, #SafercarsforAfrica.
GNCAP and Indian safety norms are different
Apart from the crash tests, the Government of India has made certain safety features mandatory in a step by step manner. Standards for Seat Belts and their Anchorages, Child Seats, Seats and their Anchorages were mandated since 2010. Furthermore, in 2017, the Ministry mandated that passenger cars (those in M1 category) must have seat belt reminder, manual over-ride, speed alert system, vehicle reverse gear sensor, among others. The latest addition to the list are ABS, airbags, and seatbelt pre-tensioners which were earlier offered as add-ons. As more accessories are made mandatory, the price of vehicles could go up. Nevertheless, the addition of mandatory safety features is expected to make driving safer. Strict implementation of these regulations is the need of the hour.
MoRTH stated that it is working for international standardization of the Automotive Industry
MoRTH stated in a press release that it has plans to make the Indian automotive industry on par with developed nations. The press release stated that the Government has begun implementing programmes to ensure adherence with international standards of emission and safety measures. The shift from BS-IV to BS-VI emission norms, as a result of which India’s emission norms is at par with that in Europe, is cited as an example. Similar changes, according to the government, has brought India’s Automotive Industry at par with developed nations like the US, Europe, and Japan. The Ministry stated that it will soon be implementing standards for Electronic Stability Control systems and brake assist systems over the next two years. It further stated that priority areas for international standardization in the field have been identified- such as tyre pressure monitoring system.