Taking a serious note of the issue, the government has announced many steps to enhance the safety features in vehicles. While anti-lock braking system (ABS) and automatic headlights are must in two wheelers (2W), the government has made it mandatory (since October 2018) for all new cars to have pedestrian safety feature including new design of the bonnet to reduce impact on pedestrians during accidents. Similarly, electronic stability control (ESC) and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) have to be incorporated in new vehicles between year 2022 and 2023.
The government will also implement the updated safety standards set under Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP) in October 2020.New vehicles failing to meet BNVSAP standards would not be allowed to ply on the roads post October 2020.
To meet the stipulations laid out by new safety norms, manufacturers are working round-the-clock to develop new, safer vehicles that would replace the current models in the market. They are also making investments to upgrade their existing models. For example, Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the leading sellers of utility vehicles in India, is reportedly working on new avatar of Mahindra Thar and Mahindra Bolero as the current version of both does not comply with the upcoming safety norms. To meet the new safety standards, the Mahindra Thar and the Bolero would get an all-new platform.
Car makers will also have to rationalise their product portfolio as the deadline for new safety norms approaches closer. As a result, manufacturers are likely to discontinue several slow-selling or antiquated models, which they think are unfeasible to upgrade. Maruti Suzuki, for example, will discontinue production of Omni, ahead of the implementation of BNVSAP in October 2020.
The real challenge before automakers will be to bring in maximum safety at affordable cost so that there is no steep rise in cost of vehicles. Also, they will have to find a fine balance between vehicle safety and light weighting (which is critical to achieve fuel efficiency and emission norms).
The Automotive Mission Plan 2016-26 proposes to adopt a long-term roadmap for emission standards beyond BS-VI and fast-track adoption of BNVSAP. At the same time, the government envisions India to become the third largest in the world after China and US in engineering, manufacturing and export of vehicles and auto components by 2026. With global standards in place for emission and vehicle safety, India can scale new heights in auto manufacturing through a sustainable and secure path.