Utility Vehicle hopes to reduce India’s road deaths in rural population

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This originally appeared in the Guardian.

While India‘s urban dwellers snap up cheap, city-friendly cars, the country’s rural dwellers – who make up 70% of the population – are often stuck using much more rudimentary forms of transport: cattle-drawn carts, overstuffed rickshaws and makeshift vehicles, which are known locally as jugaads.

Such transport is inconvenient, and leaves passengers vulnerable on India’s treacherous roads, where a variety of vehicles – from wooden carts to sports cars – vie for the same, pot-holed space. Growing congestion and lax enforcement of road rules have led to an increasing number of road deaths.

The death toll rose to 14 lives lost every hour in 2009, up from 13 in 2008, according to the Indian National Crime Records Bureau.

India accounts for about 10% of road traffic fatalities worldwide. In total, more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the death rate per 100,000 people for road traffic accidents has increased from 16.8 in 2009 to 18.9 in 2013.

The makeshift jugaads – low-cost vehicles with diesel engines, weak brakes and little (if any) protective facade – are especially treacherous. So much so that in 2010 the northern state of Rajasthan made them illegal.

Abhinav Das, 27, an engineer, saw a gap in the rural transport market and decided to do something about it. As a student at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Das concocted a solution: the rural utility vehicle, or RUV. What started out as an “experiment” for a college competition has turned into a full-time job and a company, Evomo Research and Advancement, says Das.

He says the RUV is a safer and more useful alternative to the jugaad. The vehicle has a proper braking system, headlights and a sturdy frame that can easily handle rough terrain. The RUV can also be manufactured locally, which creates job opportunities in rural areas.

For the full story, please go to The Guardian.

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