'Bharat NCAP can afford to be more adventurous': David Ward, Executive President, Towards Zero Foundation

It would be presumptuous for the BNCAP to keep track of time to come on par with the Euro NCAP, says David Ward

By Mayank Dhingra and Radhika Dave calendar 18 May 2023 Views icon2402 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

The Bharat New Car Assessment Programme or BNCAP vehicle crash assessment protocol which has been proposed in India for several years but is yet to see its implementation in the market can afford to be more adventurous, as it is not a regulatory standard. 

That is the word coming in from David Ward, Executive President, Towards Zero Foundation, who believes that there can be some flexibility with NCAPs, since they are all about engaging with the public and raising awareness of what technologies can do in terms of safety enhancement of vehicles. 

In an exclusive interview at the Autocar Professional Road Safety Conclave, Ward explained that ADAS technologies like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and intelligent speed assistance (ISA) could be relevant interventions, part of an NCAP protocol, to drive vehicle safety. He suggested BNCAP make these systems part of its protocol. "This is what the Bharat NCAP can do – it can afford to be adventurous as it is not a regulatory standard," he said.

Ward further stated that it would be good for Bharat NCAP to develop a two-wheeler safety protocol, reasoning that India being the largest two-wheeler market in the world, has to face the key challenge of controlling speed, which is a big part of the process of safety enhancement.

ESC: better late than never 
Talking about some cost-effective safety technologies for the Indian market, Ward stated that the world over, more than 80 percent of new cars come equipped with electronic stability control or ESC technology, which has attained economies of scale, and is no longer an expensive intervention to improve vehicle safety. 

"Therefore, we upgraded the Global NCAP protocols to include ESC, and while India is proposing to mandate it from 2024, I would have liked to see it coming earlier. Nevertheless, it has serious benefits and I would also like it to extend to commercial vehicles in India as ESC has tremendous advantages even in heavy-duty trucks, as well as buses," he said.

Impact of the SaferCarsForIndia campaign
Reminiscing the impact of Global NCAP's SaferCarsForIndia crash programme that begain in 2014, and is about to complete a decade, Ward said, "It has been a rewarding journey to see safety of cars in India evolve from announcing our first test result in 2014 which was only based on the front-collision impact. 

"While there has been significant progress in the form of government regulations over the years, major car OEMs in India are today competing for five-star crash rating for cars.

"Every NCAP around the world evolves with the time and upgrades the protocol around every five years. This is an important part of the NCAP dynamic in any market, and so has Global NCAP evolved over the years. Having said that, in India, we would also like to see progress and the gradual transition to the Bharat NCAP, which could soon join the league of NCAPs around the world," he said.

Convergence of Euro and Bharat NCAP
Talking of how the Euro NCAP is the most advanced car crash protocol in the world, Ward said that it would be presumptuous for the BNCAP to keep track of time to come on par with the Euro NCAP, adding that a lot depends on the scenarios of the respective marketplaces these protocols serve.

"It is important to have a dynamic evolution of the crash protocol, and adapt to the changing technology," he said, referring to the example of the US NCAP, which, once a world leader, has not seen any major updates in its test protocol for over a decade.

For the functioning structure of Bharat NCAP,  he said that the Euro NCAP model of having a collaborative approach, with the programme being operated by the government and consumer-type independent bodies, is important. India can take reference from the Euro NCAP as such an operating model will suit the requirements of the Indian market as well.

“Irrespective of whichever way the NCAP is run, the integrity of the test protocol is the most important factor and that is the bottom line. If it comes too much under the control of vehicle manufacturers, it will not work,” he signed off. 

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