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The game-changers in Euro NCAP crash tests

Find out which developments in safety testing have helped to cut deaths and injuries on our roads the most

Words ByClaire Evans

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Over the years, more crash tests have been added – there are now four – and the testing has evolved to ensure that manufacturers are constantly encouraged to improve safety technology in order to achieve the top rating. Euro NCAP now has 12 member organisations spread across eight countries and its seven test centres out around 40 cars a year through the rigorous test programme.

Euro NCAP introduced the first Roadmap in 2010. It gives car makers a heads-up on the technology NCAP thinks will work best to improve road safety. It’ll be publishing the third version of it in 2018, outlining the aims for the next five years.”

Decisions about which area of safety to focus on come out of consultation with Euro NCAP’s members and from looking at trends in accidents.

One recent example is that an increase in abdominal injuries was noticed, particularly among children and older adults sitting in the back of cars. So, in order to improve the restraint systems being used, the full frontal head-on collision was reintroduced in 2015 to ensure car makers limit the loads being placed on these most vulnerable passengers.

Milestones in improving car safety

Manufacturers had made big inroads into keeping those inside cars safer by 2009, but 67% were scoring just two stars for pedestrian protection, so this element was incorporated into a new overall five-star rating to cut deaths among cyclists and pedestrians. Cars were judged on how little harm they would inflict on a pedestrian in an accident.

Just one year after this change the number of people killed on UK roads dipped below 2000 for the first time since records began in 1926. Serious injuries were at an all-time low of 20,000, too.

A year later, the Euro NCAP Advanced Rewards initiative was launched to give credit to car makers that were introducing advanced new technologies, such as lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.

Then, in 2011, this technology was brought into the safety ratings with the introduction of a new obstacle avoidance test, done on an outdoor test track.

It’s been nicknamed the elk test by some because it tests how well a car can swerve to avoid something big, like an elk, that could suddenly appear, although in truth it’s more likely to be useful to avoid a child that might run into the road. It encouraged more car makers to fit electronic stability control systems that would reduce skidding in these emergency situations.

Just two years after this test was introduced, the lowest death and serious injury rates of all (1713 and 21,657 respectively) were recorded.

The introduction of assistance

The next important step came in 2014 when the performance of automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane keeping and lane departure systems were taken into account when awarding a car’s star rating.

The automatic emergency braking test for this involves a car being driven at a fake, inflatable vehicle, with the driver making no attempt to slow the car down. The car detects the other vehicle and, noticing that the driver isn’t acting, automatically stops the car. At lower speeds AEB prevents accidents from happening at all, and at higher speeds it lessens the impact by slowing the car down.

Having an automatic emergency braking system that can detect and avoid pedestrians as well as other vehicles became a requirement of a five-star rating at the end of 2015, and 70% of the cars tested by NCAP in 2016 were fitted with this technology.

β€œThe wider introduction of collision avoidance systems has been the most significant change in the last decade, its helped to reduce accidents by 20%,” comments Avery.

Read more – Which car won the 2017 What Car? Safety award?

Click through to page 4 to find out about the future of Euro NCAP crash testing

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