Manufacturing robust vehicles contributes immensely towards building a strong nation. The evolution of car safety has been a constant process and due to the technological advancements the bar of safety features offered currently is expected to be raised.
Presently, India is witnessing a humungous increase in the number of vehicles being driven out of various showrooms on a daily basis. According to the figures from SIAM, the Indian auto industry moved a total of 3.37 million passenger cars in FY2018-19. To address this growing volume of cars on our roads, various ministries and Government departments are working on upgrading and strengthening the road and traffic infrastructure in the country to rein in rash driving and the ensuing accidents.
Last year, over 1,51,000 casualties were recorded due to traffic accidents across India, which is equivalent to about 400 fatalities a day. Out of this, a substantial percentage of people lost their lives due to the absence of basic safety features in their vehicles. Understanding the severity and the need of safety features in a car, the government made certain safety norms mandatory from this year onwards such as airbags, speed limit indicators, ABS, speed alert system, reverse parking sensor, driver and front passenger seat reminder, manual override for central locking system, crash test norms compliance and so forth. Likewise, new norms for pedestrian safety (applicable for new models from October 1, 2018) will become applicable for all models from 2020.
Hence, I see the coming decade as the ‘decade for safer cars’ in India. Along with cleaner emissions (by virtue of BS-VI and subsequent Bharat Stage norms), the 2020s, by design – both literally and figuratively, will see a lot safer cars in our country.
Now, the responsibility lies with all the automakers on how we plan to liaise with the government and work towards a common vision of a ‘Safe Bharat’. Manufacturing a car which hosts an array of safety features throws a variety of challenges, overcoming which demands a deep understanding of vehicle safety technology (VST) at every stage. Right from designing the car to its engineering and testing, the quality of work needs to be top notch to meet the ever evolving parameters of the crash tests. In the real world scenario, several types of accidents may occur. A representative set is smartly chosen in product development to ensure the real world safety. The safety development also encompasses subsystems and component level assessments to drive real world performance robustness.
But what’s challenging is bringing in maximum safety at an affordable cost so that cost of the vehicle does not shoot up dramatically. At present, the Indian OEMs have to source most of the latest safety features from all around the world as the suppliers here still don’t have the wherewithal to localize the required technologies. The high strength grade steel is not available in India yet. Having said that, the suppliers are steadily and proactively working towards reducing the gap by producing steel of high quality using the best of technologies.
The Tata Nexon, in 2018, emerged as the recipient of a five star rating from the Global New Car Assessment Programme (GNCAP), an achievement that puts India on the global map and is a precursor to Tata Motors’ active role in advancing vehicle safety. The car was tested for frontal and side impacts and emerged victorious, providing the highest adult occupant safety. The structure of the Nexon is engineered to effectively manage and absorb the impact energy. The front structure absorbs crash energy while the passenger compartment provides the safety cage to its occupants.
This feat has now once again been accomplished by our premium hatchback, the Altroz, reaffirming our commitment towards safety. The car very recently received its own 5-star rating from GNCAP. This makes Altroz not only the second vehicle from Tata Motors to achieve this distinction, but also makes it the second passenger car in the Indian automotive industry to make it this far.
The Indian car buyer is also increasingly paying keen attention to the importance of safety in their cars and are slowly drifting towards products, which provide them a holistic package. These customers, including millennials, are looking for cars which provide an unprecedented mix of safety, practicality and entertainment.
Last year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways emphasized that by the year 2022 most of our vehicle safety will be at par with global standards and some safety features may even surpass the standards of United States, one of the most (if not the most) advanced auto markets in the world. Driving into the future of car safety will only be an uphill task what with the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), which will come with their own inherent challenges due to the presence of high voltage in these cars.
The development of such cars will warrant them to meet additional requirements, due to the flow of massive currents in EVs, in addition to the active and passive safety requirements of a conventional vehicle. At Tata Motors, we are also actively undertaking R&D work on advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) as well as full vehicle autonomy in order to be future ready.
All said and done, the next 10 years or so will be a watershed period for our industry, with respect to critical and futuristic aspects such as safety, emissions, connected mobility and electric vehicles to name a few.