To address the issue of overspeeding and the consequences of the same, the Union road transport ministry of India has approved the installation of compulsory airbags and speed limit reminders in all cars from July 1, 2019. Carmakers fee that this might push prices up by 8-10 per cent.
In addition to airbags and speed limit reminders, all cars will also have seat belt reminders, reverse parking sensors and a manual override switch for central locking systems. Most original equipment makers (OEMs) already offer these features in their cars, but, as they are not mandatory, only the higher variants of cars are fitted with these features.
A host of new safety norms, on par with EU norms, will come into effect from October 2017 to October 2020. Deadline for implementation of Full Frontal Impact, Offset Frontal Impact and lateral or side Impact norm on new models is October 1, 2017. Existing models must compulsorily have these features by October 1, 2019. Pedestrian protection safety norm will come into effect from October 1, 2018 for new models and for existing models it will be from October 1, 2020.
The country's largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) has seven models (S Cross, Ciaz, Baleno, Ertiga, Ignis, the new DZire and Celerio) that have been certified as meeting all advanced safety regulations nearly two years ahead of the timeline. About 75-80 per cent of cars in the MSIL portfolio would become compliant to these norms, about a year ahead of them becoming mandatory in India, said the company.
Most carmakers say that there are no issues in compliance in this case, as the technology is already available. In fact, some like Toyota say that they are already ahead in the game, and have been offering driver and co-passenger airbags in all their cars for the past two years.
Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor said that Toyota welcomed the move. "This is definitely a step in the right direction. However, the government might also consider having more stringent norms for frontal crash tests. The global norm is 64-km per hour speed at which, the impact test takes place. In India, it is at 56 kmph."
Since the norms were expected to be implemented, carmakers say there would be no compliance issues here. Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice president, marketing and sales, Honda Cars India said that carmakers are ready to comply. "At one point it was expected that these norms might be implemented sooner. Now, there is still one and a half years to go before this becomes mandatory," he said.
Prices, however, are set to rise as a result. Analysts and industry sources claim that with all the safety features combined, the incremental cost would be Rs 40,000-60,000 per car depending on the model.
Meanwhile, manufacturers also pointed out that there is a common misconception that making a car safe is about merely loading equipment like airbags and anti-lock braking systems.
C V Raman, senior executive director (Engineering), MSIL said, "Engineers also have to ensure that this does not lead to a major increase in vehicle weight. Otherwise, it would end up compromising on fuel efficiency, performance and comfort, which are also very important for customers. The challenge is to balance all aspects. It is here that innovation is important."
He added, making the car safe is not enough to bring down fatalities. "At any rate, we cannot design a car for all eventualities and all our efforts can only reduce the chances of injury to occupants and pedestrians. This is not an invitation to careless or reckless driving. The most important safety feature ever invented for the car still remains the old faithful seat belt," Raman said.
Almost 1.5 lakh people die every year in road accidents. The government wants to reduce 50 per cent of the road fatalities by 2020.
# New cars will be fitted with a system that issues audio alerts when the speed crosses 80kmph
# The alert will be sharper when the vehicle crosses 100-kmph, and non-stop when it’s over 120-kmph
# Seat belt alarms if driver and co-passenger are not wearing belts
# Rear parking sensors - give indication to driver when objects are in the monitoring range