Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari is set to launch the much-awaited Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (Bharat NCAP) on August 22, 2023. It is said to be a significant step forward in the government’s efforts to improve road safety by raising the safety standards of motor vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes in India.

The significant development comes around two months after Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari approved a draft notification to introduce Bharat-NCAP to make India's automobile industry 'Aatmanirbhar'. Before that in March, the minister apprised Parliament on working with stakeholders to formulate a plan to test and assess the star rating of a car under the B-NCAP.

The Bharat NCAP programme will provide a tool to car customers to do a comparative assessment of the crash safety of motor vehicles available in the Indian market. Under Bharat NCAP, car companies can voluntarily offer their cars tested as per Automotive Industry Standard (AIS) 197.

Based on the performance of the car in the tests, the car will be awarded star ratings for Adult Occupants (AOP) and Child Occupants (COP). Based on the findings, potential car customers can refer to these star ratings to compare the safety standards of different vehicles and accordingly make their purchase decision.

The road and highways ministry expects the demand for safer cars will increase, encouraging the car manufacturers to comply with customer needs. "With high safety standards, Indian cars will be able to compete better in the global market, increasing the export potential of the car manufacturers in India. The programme is expected to develop a safety-sensitive car market in India," the ministry adds.

Gadkari had earlier said it is an "extremely crucial" measure, not only to ensure structural and passenger safety in cars in India but to also increase their export worthiness. The minister has assured the testing protocol of Bharat-NCAP will be aligned with" global crash test protocols", factoring in the existing Indian regulations, allowing other emerging markets to get their vehicles tested at India’s own in-house testing facilities.

What is Global NCAP

So far, Indian cars are tested under the crash tests conducted by vehicle safety group the Global New Car Assessment Programme (Global NCAP), a UK-based Towards Zero Foundation project. Global NCAP’s serves as a platform for cooperation among new car assessment programmes worldwide and promotes the universal adoption of the United nation’s most important motor vehicle safety standards.

How B-NCAP works

The B-NCAP system will assess cars based on five parameters, including structural safety, the safety of adult occupants of the car, the safety of child occupants, the assessment of the car for pedestrian-friendly design, and the provision of active and passive safety assist technologies. The proposed assessment will allocate a star rating from 1 to 5 stars.

The ministry has taken a series of initiatives to ensure passenger safety. On January 14, 2022, it proposed vehicles of category M1, manufactured after October 1, 2022, will 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 the persons occupying outboard seating positions. M1 category vehicles are those used for the carriage of passengers, comprising not more than 8 seats, in addition to the driver's seat.

In February 2022, it further proposed that all front-facing seats in vehicles of the M1 category, manufactured on and after October 1, 2022, must be provided with a three-point seat belt. Other measures taken by the ministry are rules to certify the vehicle's roadworthiness, the fitness of the vehicle, anti-lock braking system, fitment of speed limiting devices, fire alarm and protection system in type III buses of category M3 and school buses, etc.

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