Maruti Suzuki’s 600 acres of unique
playground in Rohtak near Delhi in the state of Haryana has around 1400
engineers playing ball almost every day of their lives, not to win trophies for
themselves, but to keep the cars we drive and the people in and around them as
safe as possible. “More than 30 different kinds of tracks have been built into the playground which our engineers cherish.....It’s the kind and level of work we are doing here that keeps
them occupied and charged up. That’s a major motivation for our engineers here,”
says CV Raman, Executive Director, Engineering, Maruti Suzuki India Limited.
Raman was addressing journalists while demonstrating the extent of work being carried out at Maruti
Suzuki’s global R&D Centre in Rohtak. The centre which has already seen an
investment of Rs 1900 crore in Phase I, will see an additional investment of a
similar amount till November 2019 when work in phase II ends, taking the total
investment to Rs 3800 crore. The centre is poised to become one of the most
advanced R&D facilities in India and amongst the top facilities in Asia.
Also, it is not every other
day that Maruti Suzuki allows you to witness a brand new Maruti Suzuki Ignis
car travel through a remote mechanism at a speed of 56 odd kilometres per hour
and crash into a 90-tonne concrete block with loads of sensors and cameras
along with two advanced Anthropomorphic Test Devices (ATDs), a.k.a. crash test
dummies sitting in the front seats, recording in the process every micro second of the test in
order to collate data that would help the company build safer cars as well as
ensure that people sitting inside escape from any fatal injures post a crash.
Just to understand the immense
capability of at least one sophisticated equipment at the centre, it is pertinent to note
that the cameras installed at the centre capture the crashes at anywhere between
1000 frames per second to 10,000 frames per second (fps). A high end camera
used by auto journalists to capture speeding cars and bikes for their reviews have
a capability of around 60 fps, while a DJI Osmo recording camera has 120fps capability
while a Go Pro has around 240fps capability.
So what is this centre all
about? Spread over a 600-acre campus (600
acres have been developed and another 100 acres lie unused as of now), this
integrated R&D Centre has state-of-the-art vehicle testing and evaluation
labs, besides a world class proving ground with 31 unique test tracks that
traverse over 31 kilometres replicating real life terrains. Thus Maruti Suzuki
wants to not only cherish the initiative of “Make in India”, but is also
ushering in an era of “Create in India”.
The centre has a 5.9 km long
high-speed track with 2km straight stretches on either side. Along its
periphery is a 35 degree banking track where a car can be driven at high speeds
of around 190kmph. The track itself is no ordinary one, having been built by an
international company specialised in such tasks. The machines deployed for
building these tracks were GPS enabled and the task was carried out with utmost
Besides the high-speed track,
the centre has several unique test tracks like Belgian Block Road, Straight
Block Road, S-Type Block Road, Twist Ditch, Undulated Road, Speed breakers,
water wading roads, highway road, low friction road, vehicle dynamics area, NVH
roads (for testing noise, vibration and harshness of a vehicle), ABS track
for endurance test, etc. The entire track area is also interspersed
with 13 lagoons, some of which continue to hold water and are homes to several
migratory birds! These lagoons play a critical role in ensuring that there is
no water logging during rains and since they are inter connected they ensure
that water is evenly distributed in these lagoons.
While these open air tracks
are used to test the capabilities of the car on the performance, durability and
comfort front, it is the 5664 square metre Passive Safety Lab that holds the
key to all safety related matters. Apart from the crash lab area here, there is
a soak room, sled facility (crash tests are carried out here with the shell of
a car), pedestrian lab and even a dummy calibration lab. These sophisticated dummies
are priced at around Rs 30 lakh to as much as 90 lakh. The pedestrian testing
is done with new generation devices and products fitted with sensors and
cameras that can assess the damage occurred to areas like the skull, neck and
the entire leg (femur, knee and tibia) during a head on crash. Here, while the
car is stationary, sophisticated machines push the testing devices at speeds of
35kmph on to the front of the car in order to determine the damage.
But it is the offset crash test
and side impact tests carried out at higher speeds that enable the engineers at
the Rohtak R&D centre to determine how safe the car is post an accident,
for the occupants of the car. Since the time the centre has become operational,
Maruti Suzuki has carried out at least 200 such tests. Post each test, the brand
new car is dismantled and disposed of as scarp. But it is the invaluable data
that helps the company make better and safer cars. Crash tests of such nature
carried out in government testing centres like ARAI or iCAT could cost as much
as Rs 15 lakh per test which does not include the cost of the vehicle!
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) – Strengthening its Engineering Prowess
Way back in the 1980s when Maruti Suzuki India
Ltd was known as Maruti Udyog Ltd , its engineers enhanced their skills by visiting Suzuki’s
global engineering facilities in Japan for a maximum four to five months. But
more than a decade later they were sent for as long as two years which led to
better exposure and learning for Maruti Suzuki engineers. The journey of the
company and the prowess of its engineers can be summed up in four phases: Phase
1 involved mere localisation and product offering, Phase 2 involved face-lift, co-design
and development, Phase 3 involved full body change and Phase 4 involved a
global development. So whether it was the facelift of the Zen car in 2003, the co-design
of Swift with the Suzuki global R&D team in 2005, the working on the full
body change of Alto in 2012, or the making of the compact SUV Vitara Brezza in
2016, each of this marked a new high for Maruti engineers. “Of course all of
this was done with a lot of hand holding from Suzuki of Japan,” says Raman.
The Vitara Brezza was conceptualised,
designed and developed in India using Suzuki’s engine and core technology. The
car became a reality using some of the contemporary facilities of this Rohtak R&D
So, while vehicle design,
development and testing require the most sophisticated equipment, more
important is to develop capability of engineers over time to optimally utilise
these facilities to ensure customer satisfaction.
Over the last decade, Maruti
Suzuki has systematically trained and developed engineers for R&D by giving
them exposure to new model development as well as doing special projects along
with the more experienced engineers at SMC Japan on design and technology.
Nearly 35% of R&D engineers in MSIL have already been trained at Suzuki,
Japan for up to two years, and built the competence to create modern vehicles
with advanced features and high quality and safety.
The world class testing
facilities at Rohtak and the capability of Maruti Suzuki engineers have now
converged. Working in close partnership with the R&D team in Suzuki, Japan,
MSIL will be able to test and evaluate vehicles at this R&D Centre.
Meeting safety norms ahead of time
Vitara Brezza is the first
vehicle in India to be certified for offset and side impact crashes, much ahead
of the advanced safety regulations to be mandated by the government in India.
Vitara Brezza was certified by the homologation agency before its launch in
March 2016, well before the advanced regulations come into effect in India.
Government roadmap for
Full Frontal Impact
Oct 1, 2017
Oct 1, 2019
Offset Frontal Impact
Lateral / Side Impact
Oct 1, 2018
Oct 1, 2020
Interestingly five Maruti
Suzuki models now certified are for advanced safety, ahead of regulation. Ignis,
the company’s first urban compact vehicle, offers all advanced safety ahead of regulations
timeframe of the government. Like the Vitara Brezza, Ignis was also tested and
evaluated at the crash labs and proving ground
in Rohtak’s R&D Centre. At its launch in January 2017, all variants
of Ignis were officially certified for all advanced safety norms on offset,
side impact and pedestrian safety.
In addition, in the last few
months, Maruti Suzuki models S-Cross, Ciaz, Baleno and Ertiga have been tested
and certified by official homologation agencies for advanced safety regulations
on offset, side impact and pedestrian safety. To meet the advanced safety
regulations, each of these vehicles has undergone 35-40 tests during design and
development over 3-4 years. About 75-80% of cars in the Maruti Suzuki portfolio
would become compliant to these norms, about a year ahead of them becoming
mandatory in India.
Suzuki Total Effective Control Technology (TECT)
In developing products, Maruti
Suzuki R&D has been focussing on several aspects like design, technology,
comfort & convenience and infotainment, along with advanced safety. Adding an
air bag, or any other additional safety equipment alone is not an answer to
making a safe, smart car. To meet advanced regulations in safety as well as
emissions without compromising performance, an overall optimisation of vehicle
design and systems is essential.
It is here that the global
R&D team at Suzuki, Japan and MSIL has developed a new 5th Generation
vehicle platform that is designed to provide advanced safety to occupants,
without compromising on fuel efficiency, emission or performance. Called Total
Effective Control Technology (TECT), this breakthrough innovation ensures that
the vehicle is safer, stronger, 10pc more rigid while being 15pc lighter.
Through TECT, the vehicle
structure is engineered in a way that in the event of an accident, the crash
energy is absorbed by impacted sides while keeping the occupant compartment safe.
This latest platform directs the crash energy from the vehicle front to the
rear keeping the compartment intrusions minimal. TECT also ensures that the
safety systems such as seat belt/airbag remain in the correct position to
provide maximum protection to the occupant.
Besides TECT, Maruti Suzuki
also used new material like high tensile steel (stronger and safer while being
lighter) and many other innovations, to keep their vehicles safe, fuel efficient,
nature friendly and great on the performance front. One of its latest model,
the Baleno, is a TECT marvel. Baleno is nearly 90 Kgs lighter than a
conventional platform and is consequently more fuel efficient. Its longer
wheelbase gives more space, comfort and convenience to occupants. And to top
it, Baleno meets all advanced safety regulations. It is obvious that the Rohtak
R&D Centre will continue to play a very important role in the making of all
the future models from Maruti Suzuki, while its engineers will continue to
play ball at its 600 acre playground!
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