Bharat NCAP

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A backgrounder


Anil Sasi, Aug 25, 2023: The Indian Express

The Bharat NCAP testing protocol, which comes into effect on Oct 1, is aligned with global crash test protocols, and will have ratings from 1 star to 5. The higher the NCAP score (stars), the safer the car.

India has launched its own crash test rating assessment system, joining half a dozen other countries and geographies that have these norms.

A crash test is a collision of a vehicle in a controlled environment to assess its safety parameters. The new norms under the Bharat New Car Assessment Programme or Bharat NCAP, will come into effect from October 1.

The norms define safety standards of motor vehicles with type approval for seating up to eight people, and with a gross weight of less than 3.5 tonnes, which are either manufactured or sold in the country. Work on drawing up the norms began in 2015.

The standards will offer customers an objective metric to compare the crash safety of vehicle models before buying, and will nudge manufacturers to progressively improve the safety ratings of models.

Testing protocol, scores

The Bharat NCAP testing protocol is aligned with global crash test protocols, and will have ratings from 1 star to 5. The higher the NCAP score (stars) the safer the car.

Evaluation will cover (i) Adult Occupant Protection (AOP), (ii) Child Occupant Protection (COP), and (iii) Fitment of Safety Assist Technologies. For this, three tests will be conducted: a frontal impact test, a side impact test, and a side pole impact test.

Based on the vehicle’s performance in these tests, the model will be offered separate star ratings for AOP and COP.

The front impact test will be against an offset deformable barrier at a speed of 64 km/h, which is faster than the 56 km/h that vehicle-makers had lobbied for). The pole impact test will only be carried out for cars securing 3 stars and above. Also, for a 3-star or higher rating, the car must have electronic stability control and front seat belt reminders.

Format of the testing

To begin with, the exercise will be voluntary. Carmakers will be encouraged to offer their models for testing as per the Automotive Industry Standard (AIS) 197.

Once the manufacturer offers a vehicle model for crash testing, the manufacturing facility will be visited by a Bharat NCAP team that will pick a base variant of the model through random sampling. This vehicle will be taken to the Bharat NCAP testing centre, and put through the crash test in the presence of the manufacturer’s representatives. The results will be compiled and shared with the manufacturer.

After a Bharat NCAP standing committee approves the entire process, the crash test results and the star rating of that vehicle will be published.

The parameters under review include an assessment of the car’s structural integrity in the event of a frontal collision or a sideways impact, provision of active and passive safety assist technologies, safety of adult and child occupants in the vehicle, and the vehicle’s overall pedestrian-friendly design, which will be used to determine the final rating.

The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) is mandated with testing the vehicles under the scheme at its laboratories in Pune and Chakan.

Why testing matters

So far, carmakers have been shipping models abroad for testing and star grading, an expensive and time-consuming affair. These tests largely covered petrol and diesel cars. Bharat NCAP will also test and rate CNG and electric vehicles based on their crash performance.

The new norms could lead to an improvement of the quality of cars sold in the country, and the export-worthiness of India-made automobiles. Over time, the programme is expected to catalyse a change in consumer behaviour and lead to an increase in the demand for safer cars, nudging manufacturers to increase focus on safety.

India sees some 1.5 lakh fatalities on its roads every year, and has among the world’s highest rates of road accident deaths. Under the Stockholm Declaration, India is committed to reducing the number of road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2030.

Global NCAP, and India’s

An exercise to rate cars based on crash safety first started in the United States in the late 1970s. Similar programmes were subsequently launched elsewhere: the Euro NCAP, Australasian NCAP, Japan NCAP, ASEAN NCAP, and China NCAP, which were largely based on the US format.

In 2011, the United Kingdom-based charity Towards Zero Foundation, which was promoted by, among others, Bloomberg Philanthropies, FIA Foundation, International Consumer Testing and Research, and the Road Safety Fund, formed the Global NCAP to improve coordination among the various NCAPs.

The Bharat NCAP norms are aligned with the format of the Global NCAP, which worked with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in formulating the Indian edition of the crash tests. Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday hailed the collaborative efforts of the automobile industry, and said Bharat NCAP had already received more than 30 testing requests. Testing a car under the Bharat NCAP programme would cost around Rs 60 lakh, while a similar test overseas would cost around Rs 2.5 crore, he said.

It is to the credit of Global NCAP that its series of crash tests, starting in January 2014, spotlighted automotive safety and sensitised manufacturers to the need to upgrade safety offerings in cars sold in India. Global NCAP did not inform manufacturers about the tests, and picked cars from showrooms — while this caused considerable heartburn for players in the Indian auto sector, most Indian carmakers have embraced the launch of Bharat NCAP as a positive step.

“Any car that is launched in India follows the mandatory safety standards set by the government. For consumers seeking extra safety information, the Bharat NCAP system is an authentic and objective rating system to empower the customer to make an informed choice,” Rahul Bharti, Executive Officer, Corporate Affairs, Maruti Suzuki, said.

The country’s largest carmaker will offer at least three models for Bharat NCAP testing in the first lot, Bharti said.

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