We asked Thatcham Research, the UK’s only accredited crash testing centre, to tell us about their work because we wanted Club members to understand their safety-related choices when buying a new car. Which they kindly did for us, as follows.
We all know we’re driving around in more protective cars than we were 10 years ago but there is still room for improvement in this critical area.
With a better understanding of how new cars are tested and the best safety options to consider, this knowledge will undoubtedly help motorists make a safer new car choice in future.
How does the EU test car safety?
Across the EU, independent organisations subject modern cars to rigorous safety testing which results in the award of a safety rating by Euro NCAP (the European New Car Assessment Programme).
All cars have to be tested in impartial conditions and Thatcham in Berkshire is the UK’s only accredited crash testing centre to carry out this important work.
Euro NCAP testing doesn’t just provide new car buyers with an overview of safety standards; it also sets future safety targets for vehicle manufacturers to aim for, ensuring that vehicle safety standards are continually improving for all even if they are only led by a few to begin with.
How are Thatcham tests conducted?
An extensive range of crash tests are conducted in a controlled environment including a track. These tests include frontal and side impact plus whiplash scenarios. Adult drivers and passengers are not the only consideration during testing; the impact on child occupants and pedestrians is also measured and influences the complex Euro NCAP rating.
Physical testing changes rapidly as modern vehicles evolve. For example, one of Thatcham Research’s most crucial roles is testing the new leading-edge technology that is designed to reduce the chances of an accident in the first place.
A good example here is the technology called ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) which plays an increasingly crucial role in the overall vehicle assessment. As vehicle safety standards rise, all manufacturers strive to keep up with the safety leaders here and to maintain their much coveted 5 star Euro NCAP rating.
To give you an idea of today’s Euro NCAP 5 star stated rating requirements, vehicles are expected to offer “Overall good performance in crash protection AND be well equipped with robust crash avoidance technology.”
What is crash avoidance technology?
One of the most important safety features to consider when buying a new car is the fitting of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as an ADAS. In its most basic form, AEB monitors traffic ahead using sensors fitted to the vehicle and applies the brakes when the driver is distracted or unable to, reducing the chances of a front to rear accident by an impressive 38%.
With one in four accidents being a front to rear impact, the potential benefit of AEB is evident.
Despite the safety benefits and the relatively low cost to manufacturers of AEB, this Advanced Driver Assistance System is not as commonplace as you might expect. In fact, whilst 48% of new cars in the UK can be fitted with AEB, it is only included in 21% of them (2016 figures).
So, if you didn’t know about AEB or didn’t ask for this feature at the time of order, your new car will likely be delivered without the one safety feature most likely to keep you and your family accident free in this area.
Not only does AEB contribute towards a valuable 5 star safety rating today, it can also help reduce insurance costs. Choose a car with AEB fitted and you should expect a drop of around 3-5 insurance groups which is the equivalent to saving some 10% in motor premiums.
So it’s well worth choosing a car that either has AEB as standard or asking your dealership if this is an “option” you can have fitted pre-delivery.
Which cars have AEB options?
To find out if your current vehicle is AEB equipped, or to arm yourself with the information you need to ensure your next new car is as safe as it can be, you can check safety specifications, using Thatcham’s handy AEB checker.
You may also like to see how we conduct crash tests at Thatcham Research, where you can see exactly what a crash test dummy goes through.
FOXY says: The Volvo XC90 includes AEB and leads the market with an award winning package of active and passive safety measures. This makes the Volvo XC90 Euro NCAP’s highest scoring car ever. Of particular note, Volvo Cars and the XC90 are all available at affinity discounts to Club members in 2017. Terms apply and Club members must have joined the Club a minimum of three months before becoming eligible for this offer.