Even as pedestrian safety feature in cars becomes mandatory in India from October 1, technologies such as ESC and AEB have the potential to avoid thousands of deaths and serious injuries every year.
At the Global NCAP World Congress 2018, David Ward, Secretary General, Global NCAP discusses the short and long term objectives of ‘Stop the Crash’ programme in India and the current status of Bharat NCAP.
What are your short-, mid- and long-term objectives with introducing the 'StopTheCrash' programme in India?
India has made huge progress in vehicle safety, particularly with the new crash test regulations, and the Indian government has received a lot of praise for that as well. But that is all about protecting vehicle occupants when a crash has happened.
What's even better though is to stop the crash from happening at all, and that is when technologies such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) come into the picture. ESC is an anti-skid system which has the potential to prevent numerous accidents and is the next big priority for India in terms of vehicle safety.
The good news is that Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently announced that a new programme for these kinds of technologies should be mandated in India by 2022.
On the other hand, what we want to do with the StopTheCrash campaign is to encourage customers and bring market awareness about these kind of technologies if they want to buy a safe vehicle for their loved ones.
While it has got huge scale, India is also a price-sensitive market. How do you see the increased price of vehicles with these safety systems going down with customers?
First of all, if we look at the effect of regulation, as regulations kick in and as technology spreads, not just in a big market like India but across key markets around the world, what happens is the price of the technology comes down very significantly. For instance, the cost of an airbag over the past 15 years has declined by 60 percent. It is thus, a combination of improvements in technology as well as economies of scale when demand is seen growing all over the world.
That is also what is now happening in case of ESC, wherein the technology uses some gyro sensors and software to enable vehicle stability. What we reckon is that the procurement cost of an ESC system for an OEM today comes to be around US$ 50 from a supplier and thus, we are not talking about huge costs for an essential life-saving tool.
While we strongly say that eventually regulations will drive down costs of these safety technologies, the bigger point from a consumer perspective is what do they value most in life? So, provided that the industry is doing other things right, it, however, should not bundle such safety equipment with other creature comforts such as leather steering wheel, touchscreens et al. These should rather be available standalone, and at a reasonable price. Then, every household and family will re-think what matters to them and will be ready to spend a little extra to get just these safety features in their vehicles for their family. I think over a period of time, prices are set to come down in the future. This is the experience we have seen in every market all over the world.
Global NCAP has been in talks with the Indian government as well as industry stakeholders regarding introduction of Bharat NCAP. It is dormant for a while now, what is the status on that front?
What has happened is very interesting. When the discussions first came up, it actually looked like the Bharat NCAP might be ahead of regulations. Then, there was some sort of a priority from the government’s end towards regulations.
We have to understand that what is essential in a perfect scenario of vehicle safety is a minimum set of regulations that guarantee a level-playing field for all the competitors in the market. On top of that, there are NCAPs giving performance information and spreading awareness among the consumers.
So, India is progressing very well as there is a set of regulations already in place in the form of the frontal- and side-impact crash tests being mandatory for new models, with pedestrian crash tests also coming in for passenger vehicles from October 2019. There is also ABS and AHO becoming mandatory for two-wheelers. This is very impressive performance and now we can move towards having a Bharat NCAP to test these products at a higher speed than what the regulations require.
Once ESC also gets mandated, India would even become advanced than the
US, where ABS in motorcycles and pedestrian crash tests are not part of the mandatory norm yet.
We always wanted to have a domestic NCAP for India, and so, are working very closely with IRTE and getting manufacturers’ test cars. Overall, I am very optimistic that India is going to make its mark on the safety front before the end of this year.
(This interview was first published in the October 1, 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)
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