New Airbag rule means for Passengers and Carmakers

Context: The central government has made front passenger airbags mandatory for all vehicles as per the new airbag rule (it is compulsory to fit a driver airbag in cars from July 2019).

New Airbag rule

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has mandated that “Vehicles manufactured on and after April 1, 2021, in the case of new models, and August 31, 2021, in the case of existing models, shall be fitted with airbags for the person occupying the front seat, other than the driver.”
  • India accounts for 10% of all road crash victims in the world, as per a recent World Bank report. 

Does the government’s decision mean cars will become costlier now?

  • Prices of the affected variants are expected to go up by Rs 5,000-8,000 as a result of the government’s decision. However, this is a small price to pay for life-saving equipment like the airbag.

What about other safety features in the new airbag rule?

  • There are indications that the government is also considering introducing other safety features such as Electronic Stability Control and Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard features in vehicles from 2022-23 onward.

Some of the other safety features in automobiles are:

  • Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS): The technology prevents the wheels from locking under hard braking, and allows the driver to retain control even in a panic-braking scenario. 
  • The Centre had made the fitment of ABS mandatory for manufacturers from April 2019.
  • Added safety equipment in the form of front passenger safety belt reminder, manual override for the central locking system, and reverse parking alert are also mentioned in a December 2020 draft. 
  • However, the deadline for the same has not been stipulated.
  • Provisions like ESC – Electronic Stability Control and AEB – Autonomous Emergency Braking are being considered by the government as standard on vehicles from 2022-2023. 

Autonomous Braking vs. Anti-Lock Brakes

  • Anti-lock brakes are used to keep their brakes from locking if the driver has to brake aggressively due to some emergency. 
  • When the driver presses the brake pedal in an ABS-equipped car, the computer reads specialized sensors at each wheel and determines whether the wheel is turning or locked. 
  • The sensors also report the speed each wheel is turning. If the computer senses a lock-up, it can pulse the brakes, helping the driver maintain control.
  • Just as ABS uses sensors at each wheel to determine if and how quickly each wheel is turning, autonomous braking uses sensors to detect hazards in front of the car. 
  • Generally, an autonomous braking system will use a radar or laser that projects forward to “see” pedestrians, animals, or rapidly approaching rear bumpers. The system will calculate the amount of braking force needed to avoid the hazard. 
  • Sometimes the autonomous braking system will determine that the driver is braking, but not hard enough, and it will add pressure to the brakes to slow the car properly. 
  • If the driver makes no effort at all to brake, many of these systems will bring the car to a complete stop.

Value Addition

  • In 2015, India became a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, where we committed to halving road crash deaths by 2020. 


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