Euro NCAP’s first 20 years has encouraged better safety cell design, and standard equipment now includes force-limiting seatbelts, front and side airbags and electronic stability control.
The future push is towards crash avoidance, and tests are coming in 2018 to evaluate if camera-based automatic emergency braking (AEB) can detect cyclists and, at night, pedestrians. Also in 2018, the test for emergency lane keeping (ELK) will be refined to assess if camera and radar sensors can detect broken white lines and the carriageway edge.
“Twenty per cent of the killed and seriously injuried [KSI] are on A-roads, and if we can avoid those collisions, we can make a big improvement in safety,” says Avery.
The 2021-2025 Roadmap will encourage the standard fitment of autonomous emergency steering (AES), next-generation ELK and traffic across path (TAP), which hand over control of the car to sensors and computers programmed to prevent a collision.
Development of AES poses a significant technical challenge, says Avery, because it relies on multiple camera, radar and lidar sensors to detect a potential collision and steer the car to avoid an impact. “The steering wheel has to declutch so the driver can’t override the sensors and the car has to make a complex decision in a split second,” he says.
AES is expected to make production in around 2022-2023 in self-driving technology.
Crash testing has helped save 15,000 lives over past 20 years
ELKhas been tested since it was introduced, but the early systems weren’t very effective, according to Avery. A new, robotised, mobile rig will be deployed in 2018 to tighten the test at up to 70mph.
Another technology to be included in the star ratings is TAP, a radar sensor that applies the brakes to stop a shunt when a car pulls out from a side road. It works below 30mph at a range of 25m and is just becoming available on cars such as Volvo’s XC90. Ultimately, the same sensors will stop a car emerging from a side road into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Euro NCAP isn’t leaving the 40mph barriertest procedure untouched, either, because it has two major revisions planned. The first will introduce ‘compatability’, the real-world impact of a smaller car with a bigger one. The second will bring in more sophisticated, £500,000-each ‘Thor’ crash test dummies, which are already in use by car manufacturers.
Basic physics dictates that the heavier car in a shunt exerts a larger force on the smaller car, exposing the occupants of a smaller car to more danger, yet today’s Euro NCAP test can represent only cars of the same size crashing into each other.