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Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

New safety standards likely soon for vehicles

The new ARAI norms may include restrictions on kind of air conditioners, the amount of electronics and size of car cabins

New Delhi: India’s apex vehicle testing body is considering new safety requirements that factor in uniquely Indian conditions, the head of the agency said.

“Suitability to Indian roads is important. For example, the cars designed in Europe may not be suitable for India. So, the collection of road data to suit the vehicles, which are designed elsewhere, is one thing that we are adding to the vehicle safety," Rashmi Urdhawareshe, director, Automotive Research Association of India said in an interview on Monday.

This is in addition to basic safety norms, which are pretty much standard across countries, added Urdhawareshe.

The new norms will likely be part of the amended Central Motor Vehicle Rules and are being considered at a time when there have been sporadic, but rising instances of cars catching fire, and central locking systems engaging as a result, locking passengers inside.

They could also include restrictions on the kind of air conditioners, the amount of electronics used and the size of car cabins. Currently, there are rules on length and width and engine sizes, but not on cabins.

ARAI comes under the department of heavy industries (DHI).

Urdhawareshe said she expects to submit her report to DHI in June. A new draft bill to replace the old Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 is currently in the public domain for feedback and ARAI expects the new norms to be included as Central Motor Vehicle Rules under the new law.

Audi India head Joe King said all Audi cars adhere to global norms and guidelines and “fulfil all the regulations prescribed by the authorities in India".

“With reference to a new set of regulations, we would not be in a position to react to the same until they are announced, but we welcome any move that ensures additional safety for our customers," King wrote in an e-mail.

BMW India Pvt. Ltd and Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment sent on Monday.

DHI assigned ARAI with the task of looking at new safety norms in 2014 after receiving reports of vehicles catching fire across the country. On 12 January, a BMW 3-series caught fire near Mayur Vihar, New Delhi, its owner Sanyog Bajaj said in a phone interview.

According to Bajaj, the BMW dealer informed him that the car caught fire because it had not been serviced on time, and had run 2,000 km beyond the stipulated running limit for a service. A separate email sent to BMW India remained unanswered.

Citing police and forensic experts, the Times of India newspaper in July reported that three Delhi businessmen died in a Honda City sedan due to possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Automobile industry lobby Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has blamed installation of music systems and other electrical items from local vendors as reasons for catching fire.

Car doors do not open because the plastic and metal parts get jammed when a vehicle catches fire.

“We are evaluating whether there is a requirement for manual override. Can cars be equipped with fire extinguishers or can they have fire alarms inside?" Urdhawareshe asked.

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