A host of new safety features is heading to cars for 2021, as the EU continues its quest to reduce road fatalities to zero by 2050

Twelve new safety features are to become mandatory on cars from 2021 onwards in the EU’s latest effort to cut road deaths.

Currently, road deaths stand at 26,000 per year across the EU. The aim is to reduce this to 13,000 and halve the number of serious injuries by 2030. 

Since 2010, fatalities on EU roads have reduced by 20%, but the European Commission acknowledges that there has been no significant drop since 2013. The new measures are expected to save the lives of 10,500 people and prevent an estimated 59,600 serious injuries by 2030. 

The new mandatory features, listed below, cover several facets of road safety and constitute the first update of vehicles’ minimum EU safety standards since 2009. Many of these features are already offered on cars, often as options.

  • Advanced emergency braking
  • Alcohol interlock installation facilitation
  • Drowsiness and attention detection
  • Distraction recognition and prevention
  • Event (accident) data recorder 
  • Emergency stop signal
  • Full-width frontal occupant protection crash test, plus improved seatbelts
  • Head impact zone enlargement for pedestrians and cyclists, plus safety glass
  • Intelligent speed assistance
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Pole side-impact occupant protection
  • Reversing camera or detection system

Several further systems are proposed for inclusion on commercial vehicles. These are either already mandatory on cars or not relevant to them.

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assist systems are a requirement of Euro NCAP for a car to receive a five-star safety rating. This rule was introduced in 2018 – a year later than planned, following backlash from areas of the industry claiming that this was too difficult to implement. It’s not yet against EU law to sell a car without the systems fitted, though, despite the insurance industry’s acknowledgement that the system reduces rear-end accidents. 

Our Verdict

Audi Q2

Audi downsizes its Q-badged SUV line-up by one more notch, but can the Q2 drive inspire buyers to forgo the Seat Ateca and Mini Countryman?

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

One of the more controversial systems planned for introduction is intelligent speed assistance, which can control the speed of the car by adhering to the speed limits where possible. The system can be turned off temporarily and is widely available on a variety of cars already, although critics highlight that it's the first step towards total governance of a car’s speed, plus the possible insurance ramifications of turning the system off temporarily once the system is a legal requirement.

Alcohol interlock installation facilitation is a more radical feature. It will stop the driver from using the car if alcohol is detected in their system. Despite some EU states having breathalyser-carrying laws and breathalyser immobilisation technology available to buy, this technology has not yet been written into law. 

The EU's proposal has been universally praised by road safety groups. 

Joshua Harris, campaigns director at road safety charity Brake, said: “These technologies are proven to save lives, so this announcement should be warmly welcomed by all who are truly committed to improving road safety.

"Drivers want their vehicles to be safe, but the reality is they rarely opt to spend more on safety features as optional extras. This decision puts the onus for safety back on the car manufacturers and in one swoop, will dramatically improve the safety of our roads forever.”

Jessica Truong, executive director of the Towards Zero Foundation, said: “As the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety and the sustainable development goals to halve road deaths by 2020 draws to a close, it's time for us to work out a new plan to capitalise on the gains made this decade and ensure that we don’t lose momentum.

"Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts to safeguard people from road crashes that are both predictable and preventable. The EU’s decision to keep a focus on road safety and set a new 2030 target is a win for the safety of the communities in the EU.”

Read more:

UK road accidents down 10% in past five years thanks to new safety tech

Volkswagen and Seat seatbelt issue: passengers advised not to use middle seat

Nissan Leaf scores five stars in toughest Euro NCAP crash test

Indian cars are unsafe, says Global NCAP

Join the debate

Comments
15

17 May 2018

The sooner the UK leaves the EU the better.

17 May 2018
max1e6 wrote:

The sooner the UK leaves the EU the better.

Ha ha!

You were joking, weren't you?

18 May 2018
max1e6 wrote:

The sooner the UK leaves the EU the better.

I can't wait. Everything worse and we can have cars that are less safe too if we want. Sounds like Utopia.

17 May 2018

What an idiotic comment. You want to be paralysed in a car crash do you? And amusingly I think you'll find we'll probably still adopt those standards. Why? Because they're sensible.

17 May 2018

And what about drug detection, never mind stopping someone who's nipped in for a quick pint on the way home from work.

bol

17 May 2018

For an everyday family/commuting car. But it just reinforces my belief that it’s worth hanging on to my little old Mk1 MX5 for as long as it holds together. It’ll be a sad day when we can no longer take a simple car out for a proper drive on a sunny day. 

Blimey, I’m beginning to sound like a brexiter. Must be getting old. 

17 May 2018

I'm in the US, and I'm all for improving safety, but when new cars have intelligent speed assistance, I will NEVER buy another new car. Nor will I buy a car with lane-keeping assistance that can't be turned off.

17 May 2018

but increasing cost to the motorist.

They admit that previous improvements in car design, focused on safety, have had no measurable effect since 2013 yet continue, at pace, to fit more costly kit onto cars.

The only useful extra I can see on the new list is an Emergency stop signal.

The idea you can eradicate all road fatalities is not just impossible but it gives the impression that all risk can be eradicated from a chaotic physical system. I expect their next trick will be to demonstrate a perpetual motion device.

That this fundamentally flawed idea is supported by road safety groups shows how unrealistic their understanding of the compromises required to operate a sensible road transport network.

You would have to think, eventually, common sense will rear it's head and take control of this 'run away train' that is the 'safety first' nanny state but I see no sign of it yet.

It's not cars we need protecting from it's the do-gooder liberals...

17 May 2018

taking in to account that the amount of people learning to drive is decreasing, aren't accidents and road deaths soon to begin decreasing anyway as there'll be less people on the roads to have them? i believe they should be trying to encourage motorcycle ownership instead of cars, but that's off-topic

17 May 2018

Do i want the other cars on the road to have all this tech, YES.

Do i want it on my car, not if it doesnt come with an off button

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week