Bharat NCAP: The Idea Of Car Crash Test Ratings Explained

by Amit Mishra - Jul 2, 2022 05:49 PM +05:30 IST
Bharat NCAP: The Idea Of Car Crash Test Ratings ExplainedA Global NCAP crash test (Representative Image)
  • According to Bharat New Car Assessment Program, automobiles in India shall be accorded Star Ratings based upon their performance in Crash Tests.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a Draft notification on 24 June 2022 to introduce Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), wherein automobiles in India shall be accorded Star Ratings based upon their performance in Crash Tests.

What is a Crash Test?

A crash test is a form of destructive testing which involves the collision of vehicles in a controlled environment in order to assess their safety. These tests are usually performed between two vehicles or between a vehicle and an obstacle.

In all these physical tests, dummies made with prescribed material in stipulated dimensions are used. This helps in measuring different forces and possible injuries to the driver, co-passenger- children or adults, or others on the road.

Different types of crash tests performed on vehicles such as frontal impact, side-impact, run-off road, roll-over, pedestrian, rear-end, etc.

What is the NCAP?

In parallel to regulatory action over the last thirty years a major effort has been made to increase the public demand for safer motor vehicles. This has mainly involved providing information on car safety with regard to crashes to customers through New Car Assessment Programmes (NCAPs).

The first NCAP was created in 1978 by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since then, a number of similar programmes were started across various regions such as Australasian NCAP in 1993, Japan NCAP in 1995, Euro NCAP in 1997, ASEAN NCAP in 2011, China NCAP, Korean NCAP and Latin NCAP.

In 2011, a UK-based charity Towards Zero Foundation formed the Global NCAP to enhance cooperation among the various NCAPs and to support new testing programmes in rapidly motorizing regions.

How do NCAPs crash-test cars?

The individual NCAPs follow their own protocol to crash-test and score cars and so the results are not interchangeable.

The Euro NCAP, for instance, conducts full frontal, front offset, side impact and side pole tests, while the Global NCAP tests front offset crash alone. A front offset crash test is designed to simulate a head-on collision between two cars.

In the Global NCAP test, the car is driven at 64kph and with 40 per cent overlap into a deformable barrier which is the equivalent of a crash between two cars of the same weight, both moving at 50kph.

Over the years, the test has been effective at encouraging carmakers to incorporate improvements in the strength and stability of the passenger compartment; fitment of seat belt pre-tensioners, load limiters and dual-stage airbags; removal of hazardous and stiff structures; fitment of knee airbags; and reduced footwell intrusion and control of pedal movement to reduce lower leg injury risk.

How does NCAP score cars?

NCAPs typically award stars based on a car’s performance in a variety of crash test assessments with ‘five stars’ representing a high score. The rating itself is based on the Adult Occupant Protection and Child Occupant Protection scores resulting from the crash test.

NCAP test scores are derived from the measurement of the loadings and decelerations that occur to the instrumented dummies during the crash, but additional points may be awarded for the presence of certain safety features.

Additionally, Global NCAP mandates a driver’s side airbag as the minimum requirement to qualify for a one star rating. This should explain why non-airbag versions of the Tata Zest and Volkswagen Polo received zero stars, while airbag-equipped versions tested later were rated 4-star cars.

Then what are UN equivalent crash test standards?

The United Nations has stipulated minimum standards for protection of occupants in an off-set frontal crash test (hitting part of the front of the car) (regulation 94) and a lateral crash test (hitting the side of the car) (regulation 95).

Most NCAPs use the same front and side impact crash tests as the UN regulations. However, in the frontal impact usually a higher test speed of 64 kmph is applied. This is the speed at which fatalities are most common.

Some NCAPs also include additional pole, whiplash, and pedestrian impact ratings and also increasingly include crash avoidance technologies such as electronic stability control (ESC).

What is the history of crash testing in India?

Twelve years ago India had no crash test standards and the Tata Nano was struggling to become commercially viable even as the world’s cheapest ultra-low cost vehicle.

Later on, the central government announced in 2015 that UN equivalent crash test standards for front and side impact will be applied in India for new models from 1 October 2017 and for all cars from 1 October 2019.

In addition, the government also committed to apply the standard for pedestrian protection, again in two phases from 1 October 2018 and 1 October 2020.

What are the existing crash testing standards in the country?

The Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) mandates a safety and performance assessment, including a basic conformity crash test when vehicles go in for type approvals.

However, this does not involve a crash test rating. The car crash test as per Global NCAP is voluntary assessments and there is no provision under Central Motor Vehicle Rule for compliance to these Global NCAP test protocols.

The mandatory crash tests to be performed in India are offset frontal collision test and lateral collision test. These tests are performed at testing centres - National Automotive Test Tracks (NATRAX) at Indore, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) at Pune, International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) at Manesar and Global Automotive Research Centre (GARC) at Chennai.

How Indian standards are different from Global Standards?

As per the Indian government’s latest safety norms (applicable to all new models since October 2017, and to all models on sale from October 2019), to be eligible for sale, a car must meet front offset and side impact crash requirements.

The Indian government’s front offset test is conducted at 56 kph which, though lower than the Global NCAP’s front offset crash test speed, is in line with the United Nations’ Regulation 94 for front collison protection.

By extension, and this is important to note, it is possible for a car to meet latest Indian regulations and, hence be eligible for sale, and yet may fail in the Global NCAP. NCAP’s requirements for a good score are often superior to minimum regulatory requirements. Also, note NCAP protocols change every couple of years to include more tests or features.

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Amit Mishra is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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