One of the largest automotive markets in the world, India is also the largest two-wheeler market globally. With new motorists being added to Indian roads every day, road fatalities have gone up significantly in recent years. In 2017, government agencies recorded 470,975 accidents and out of these 147,913 accidents resulted in the loss of human life and capital – two-wheelers contributed to the maximum road accident-related deaths, adding up to 48,746 deaths across the country. Notably, overspeeding is one of the biggest causes of accidents in India.
And to counter these appalling figures, the Indian government has mandated new safety norms for two-wheelers that came into effect on April 1, 2019. These mandates include the application of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) for two-wheelers with engine capacity above 125 cc and combi brake system (CBS) for two-wheelers with engine capacity below 125 cc. For consumers this will translate into higher braking efficiency.
CRITICALITY OF SAFETY NORMS
Road safety for two-wheelers or passenger vehicles in India was never accorded the priority it should have. However, road-safety is gaining momentum in India and the safety regulations & severe crash tests have created the necessary awareness among end users. Jaidev Venkataraman, Head Engineering, Business Unit Vehicle Dynamics, Continental India, said it is an encouraging sign that the government is putting focus on road safety measures with its policies. The new safety norms hold vital importance for safety of two-wheeler riders. Mandating technologies such as anti-lock braking system, combi brake system, always-on-headlamps (AHO) or daytime running lights (DRLs) for two-wheelers are expected to reduce accidents in India.
The automotive industry has been proactively introducing new and innovative technologies to ensure rider safety. However, Yasuo Ishihara, Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Research & Development India, was of the opinion that these safety norms alone would not suffice and stressed the need for focussing on achieving total road safety and controlling road accidents. Ishihara added that safety riding education, improved infrastructure, specialised driver training and strict enforcement of traffic rules are areas that need to be addressed.
Sharing his perspective, Markus Braunsperger, Chief Technology Officer, Hero MotoCorp, said safety starts with wearing a helmet as this is the start towards lowering the mortality rate. He stated that braking efficiency becomes vital given the fact that overspeeding is one of the biggest causes of road accidents in India. The major deceleration for two-wheelers is through the application of front brakes; however, in India over 99 % of the deceleration is achieved through the application of rear brakes. Braunsperger believes even under the technical circumstances and regulations, there are still a lot of opportunities that need to be addressed. He added that braking habits tend to change with education and experience. Motorcycle gears have also proven to be effective in adding rider safety, but education on proper use of two-wheelers is a ‘must’ to improve safety for motorists in India, Braunsperger noted.
Other than government mandates organisations such as NCAP are also supporting safety initiatives and creating awareness around road and vehicle safety systems. Regulations on ABS, CBS, ongoing discussion of electronic stability control (ESC) and auto emergency braking (AEB) are progressive steps towards ensuring road safety. In this regard, Continental is committed to share knowledge and technology on these fronts with various global and local forums. Further, the company has been proactively participating in creating an appropriate vehicle safety roadmap for India.
OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
The automotive industry has been grappling with challenges, in terms of developing cost-effective safety technologies and meeting implementation deadlines. While cost was a factor in the initial stages, but with the local suppliers willing to innovate and develop technologies, this aspect is not a challenge any longer. The implementation of new safety norms will require additional costs and are expected to increase the cost of vehicles.
Manufacturers have been focussing on saving and reducing costs; however, maintaining a price point similar to outgoing models – before the regulatory norms kicked in – will be a challenge. In order to make technologies cost-effective, collaborations with local suppliers and localisation of components used in the development of technologies are critical. Safety systems should not be viewed as premium features that come along with top-end models only.
Equipping vehicles with safer technologies will certainly have a cost implication in the initial stages. But if it becomes a norm rather than an exception due to legislation, safety installations will increase and this will gradually bring prices down. This is how developed economies have evolved over the decades in vehicle safety systems.
With safety systems such as ABS & CBS, two-wheeler motorists will be able to derive more efficiency from the braking systems. CBS allows application of front brakes in tandem with rear brakes. This will enable riders to extract the most out of the braking system with the activation of front brakes taking up around 80 % of the performance. Out of the 24 mn units of two-wheelers on Indian roads, a significant portion is from the 125 cc space that makes up around 4.4 mn (FY 2018) units. This is considered a massive opportunity for the automotive industry.
Single-channel ABS systems are expected to take over 80 % of the market, since these offer the right balance between safety, performance and price. From a technical perspective, a single channel ABS system prevents the front wheel from locking up; this increases stability and avoids a vehicle fall. In case of a dual channel ABS system, both front and rear wheel are controlled to prevent locking-up, thus enhancing stability to a large extent. The influencing factors to choose a single channel or a dual channel are engine capacity, braking performance and features. Single channel systems offer ABS functionality and basic rear wheel lift-off protection with a compromised balance for braking performance and stability under all surface conditions, whereas the dual channel system offers advanced rear wheel lift-off protection with best braking performance and stability.
FUTURE SAFETY SYSTEMS
With stricter safety compliance norms in place, manufacturers and suppliers will need to look at solutions beyond ABS, CBS and LED DRLs. At present, technologies such as Continental’s Sensorbox, a second generation inertial sensor module, will help improve two-wheeler safety. Sensorbox is based on a modular concept that allows configuration of the measurement range according to customer expectations. The system for motorcycles comprises up to six degrees of freedom (6DoF). The acceleration is detected in a longitudinal, lateral and vertical direction. The yaw rate, roll rate and pitch rate are measured in a scalable range up to 300 °/s. Based on the sensor signals and motorcycle-specific characteristics, the roll angle of a motorcycle is calculated. The pitch angle can be calculated optionally. Many safety and comfort functions like traction control or (semi-) active suspension systems are already established on various motorcycles. The inertial sensor technology enables or optimises these applications. Intelligent safety and comfort systems are inconceivable without inertial sensor systems like the new Sensorbox for motorcycles.
In two-wheelers, there are discussions on ABS ride modes, traction control, optimised curve braking, motorcycle hold & go and advanced rider assistance systems (ARAS). At present, companies such as Continental are already working on advanced rider assistance systems (ARAS) for two-wheelers. ARAS includes functionalities such as blind spot detection, lane change assist, headlight assist, traffic sign assist, forward collision warning or emergency brake assist and adaptive cruise control.
Among OEMs many safety technologies are prevalent in mature markets – global players such as Yamaha offers safety systems like emergency brake assist technology, motorcycle stability control, inter-vehicle communication system, night lighting system for motorcycles, rear view assistance system for motorcycles, human machine interface system for motorcycles and airbag systems for two-wheelers. While the technology does exist globally, India being a price-sensitive market, for implementation of such systems in the country, customer demand and awareness are vital.
The IoT technology is rapidly progressing across the globe, as it can help innovate and develop ADAS for two-wheelers as well. But two-wheelers have a different structure compared to passenger vehicles and compact components are needed to install these technologies on motorcycles. Further, connectivity is not the only vehicle technology, as network and its infrastructure are also essential. There is a need to collaborate with other domain partners such as telecom, data management & maintenance, to develop such advanced systems for two-wheelers. Additional technology is necessary for rider safety and to this extent, Ishihara said these may be available in India in the near future.
Statistics indicate one death occurs on Indian roads every three-and-a-half minutes. Policies that mandate the use of enhanced technology not only presents challenges, but also growth opportunities. The steady adoption of new safety technologies is expected to improve statistics. Having said that, in order to achieve a lower mortality rate, rider education on safety and stringent enforcement of regulations are vital.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther