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Euro NCAP announces big changes to safety testing

Overhauled testing procedures designed to improve occupant protection and promote the latest driver assistance technology

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Car crash test procedures are being given their biggest overhaul in a decade to improve occupant protection and improve post-crash protection.

The Euro NCAP tests dictate the safety ratings given to new cars, which are ranked on how well they protect adult occupants, child occupants and vulnerable road users, as well as how much safety assistance technology is included.

When the changes are implemented later this year, they will include a new moving barrier in the moving car frontal crash test. Not only does this measure how occupants of the car are protected, it can also calculate how the vehicle’s front end crash structure contributes to injuries in the vehicle it has collided with.

New Euro NCAP 2020 crash testing protocol

Euro NCAP says side impacts account for the second highest frequency of death or serious injuries in collisions, so it has increased the severity of impacts during the test. It will also evaluate how the collision affects the ‘far side’ of a vehicle in an impact rather than just the immediate contact point, and the potential for interaction between the driver and front seat passenger.

The tests also include challenging new scenarios to evaluate the latest generation of driver assistance systems, and the first step towards evaluating a vehicle’s driver monitoring system.

A new crash test dummy, called THOR, is also being introduced. This is said to be the world’s most advanced crash dummy, which can more accurately replicate a human in crash conditions and record more types of potential injuries.

The organisation has also worked with the International Association of Fire and Rescue services to create a post-crash safety rating system. This will score manufacturers for how accurate and easily available extraction information is, as well as ease of extraction and use of electric door handles, for example.

Why we publish the full Euro NCAP ratings

The Car Expert is one of a very few automotive sites that publishes the full Euro NCAP safety ratings – rather than just the headline star rating – as part of our unique Expert Rating report for new cars.

The Euro NCAP tests are made up of four categories: 1) adult occupants; 2) child occupants; 3) vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists); and 4) active safety systems (to help you avoid a crash). Together they combine to form an overall rating.

It’s quite common for a car to miss out on a higher overall rating because it is deficient in one area. For example, the Ford Mustang has an overall three-star rating, which means titles like Which? automatically give it a “Don’t Buy” recommendation. But one of the reasons for that poor rating is a very low child safety score. If you don’t have kids and are not planning to carry any in your car, the rest of the Mustang’s scores are much more competitive.

Stuart Masson, Editor

Levelling the playing field

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP board member, said: “This is a new yardstick that vehicles will be measured against. We and Euro NCAP look forward to working closely with carmaker safety teams to drive towards strong results for these society-benefitting tests.

“These are the biggest changes to Euro NCAP’s impact testing protocols in a decade. Chief amongst them is the new ‘compatibility’ impact test.

“The objective is to encourage makers of larger vehicles to share some of the burden of the impact with smaller vehicles. Historically SUVs and other big cars have offered very good protection to their occupants. However, the smaller vehicles they sometimes crash into can fare less well.”

“In the new compatibility test, if the larger vehicle is too stiff in an impact scenario, it will be penalised accordingly. This levels the playing field for all vehicle sizes, which is a win-win for road safety.”

Avery also explained the benefits of the new dummy. “The THOR dummy is the most advanced we’ve ever worked with. It makes the new test especially challenging for carmakers, as the dummy more closely represents a human. The previous dummy we used was designed for impact scenarios that are less common today, while the THOR dummy is far more complex and sensitive and can record abdominal injuries.”

Euro NCAP normally tests up to half a dozen new cars each month, but testing has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is expected to resume in coming months, with the first tests under the new protocols due “after the summer”.

Additional reporting by Stuart Masson

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Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.