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Six airbags won’t be mandatory in cars: Nitin Gadkari

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The government won’t make it mandatory for automakers to fit six airbags in passenger vehicles, and will instead let customers do their own comparative assessment of crash safety worthiness while buying vehicles based on star ratings under India’s first car-safety rating programme.

“Most automakers have already started offering six airbags as a standard. Only one company has reservations. But people today are cautious and can decide (which car they want to buy) basis star ratings. Those (companies) not making six airbags (standard) will face problems as far as sales are concerned,” Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport & highways said on Wednesday.

India launched in August the Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (Bharat NCAP), which is modelled on the Global NCAP tailored for Indian standards. This is aimed at improving the safety standards of cars produced in the country, which has the highest number of road fatalities in the world.

“Bharat NCAP gives a good message to the industry,” Gadkari said, addressing the 63rd annual convention of the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA).
Early last year, the ministry of road transport & highways (MoRTH) had issued a draft notification mandating vehicles of category M1 (with capacity of up to eight passengers), manufactured after October 1, 2022, be fitted with two side/side torso airbags, one each for the persons occupying front row outboard seating positions, and two side curtain/tube airbags, one each for persons occupying outboard seating positions. The ministry had later extended the deadline by a year, saying that the regulation will come into effect from October 1, 2023. A second draft notification to this effect, however, also lapsed on April 1, 2023, without a final directive being issued for implementation.Under Bharat NCAP, which comes into effect from October 1, companies can voluntarily offer their vehicles for testing as per the Automotive Industry Standard 197. Based on the test performance, the vehicles will be awarded star ratings for adult and child occupants. The base model variant of a vehicle will need to be sent for testing under the Bharat NCAP. More than 30 vehicles have already been lined up by companies for testing under this programme.According to data from automotive consulting firm Jato Dynamics, the penetration of vehicles with six airbags stands at 98% in the US, 89% in Germany, 65% in China and 12-13% in India. However, the average price of a vehicle in India is about Rs 10 lakh, a third of that in the US.Apart from encouraging automakers to produce safer cars for the domestic market, Bharat NCAP intends to raise safety standards of locally produced automobiles which will enable companies to compete more effectively in the global market. This is expected to boost the export potential of cars made in India.

Gadkari said while the government as well as the auto industry have been making efforts to improve road engineering and automobile engineering, it is also crucial that people follow traffic rules. “This is a dark area. We have taken preventive measures to make roads safer. We are looking at making heliports, drone ports and hospitals close to highways to reduce fatalities. However, education is extremely important as (errant) human behaviour is a major cause of accidents”, he said.

India ranks at the top globally in road accident-related fatalities and third in injuries, despite accounting for just 1% of the world’s vehicle population. As many as 500,000 road accidents occur in the country annually, resulting in 150,000 deaths. Nearly 70% of those who die in road accidents are aged 18-45 years.

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