India, the fifth-largest automotive market in the world, is facing a dual challenge of pollution and road accidents. “India ranks No. 2 as far as road fatalities are concerned. With a low GDP per capita, India also has a very low purchasing power, Therefore, we need to make affordable and safer vehicles for the masses. Localisation of technology to build scale and a collaborative approach are important to reduce development costs,” said CV Raman, executive director, Engineering, Maruti Suzuki India speaking at the Autocar Professional’s 'Safer Mobility Conclave'.
Raman explained that predominantly accidents happen on the highways, with over-speeding being the prime reason. Violation of traffic rules is another big catalyst for the high number of fatalities. 14 percent of the accidents in India involve passenger not wearing seatbelts in the car and 30 percent of two-wheeler riders not using a helmet.
“Very low seatbelt usage is also a matter of concern in the country and it is the higher age group which is the most vulnerable category. If that education goes across the population, we will start seeing people taking more precautions, therefore leading to a reduced number of accidents and fatalities.”
Finding India-specific solutions
India has some unique challenges in terms of road safety. Raman believes making solutions affordable and linking them to the product is going to play a key role, “first and foremost is that we need to have a national road accident data simply because India has much lower average speeds compared to the rest of the world, and therefore that is something we need to get into perspective.”
Raman also championed the need for a stable regulatory environment and said, “We need to develop a long-term roadmap and clear policy roadmaps with well-defined timelines. We also need to promote collaboration among various stakeholders, for instance, road construction companies and test labs. On the vehicle development side, OEMs need to collaborate with the system suppliers, and we should have a nodal agency like the MoRTH monitoring all of this in a holistic manner.”
He added, “So, we need to have an entire safety ecosystem with both active and passive safety systems, along with environmental safety as well. We must also have proper enforcement of rules and guidelines, and lastly, have well-equipped trauma and accident care centres to provide optimum care in the post-crash event.”
“We believe vision zero and such imperatives are going to be very important for India to make this transition to safer mobility,” Raman signed off.