What exactly is an ANCAP 5-star crash safety rating, and why we need to improve crash test ratings…
Another day, another 5-star crash safety rating from ANCAP or EuroNCAP. But, Is there a better way?
AUSTRALIA HAS DONE much to improve road safety and is rightly proud of initiatives such as mandating electronic stability control. There’s also a sustained effort to reduce known causes of incidents such as drink and drug driving.
What exactly does ANCAP test now?
- 3PSB – three-point seatbelts, as distinct from just a lap-sash for example.
- HPT – head protecting technology eg. side airbags.
- ESC and EBA – stability control and electronic brake assist, explained in full here.
- SBR – seat belt reminder in case you drive off without the belt clicked in.
- TT – top tether anchorages for child seats (where applicable)
How could the ratings be improved?
- Rate safety for all occupants The safety rating system only considers occupants in the first row. Not the second or the third. The Japanese equivalent to ANCAP (JNCAP) puts its dummies in the driver’s side of the car when it does the offset test. Even if no testing was done, many cars have poor headrests and seatbelt adjustment in the rear compared to the front which should be a factor in rating safety.
- Account for size. Fact is, larger cars are safer than smaller cars. We understand why those differences are played down – so there’s no rush towards big vehicles – but it doesn’t change the laws of physics. ANCAP do recognise this and say “As a heavier vehicle will generally provide better protection in a collision with a smaller and lighter car, any result comparison should be restricted to cars of a similar category/mass.”
- Cover child ratings NCAP and JNCAP already have tests on this topic. However, ANCAP have looked into this and say “However, due to fundamental differences in the types of child restraints used in Australia, ANCAP does not currently publish a child occupant rating like the one published by Euro NCAP” (source) and recommend people look at the Child Restraint Evaluation Programme. That said, there’s more to child safety. Some cars have seatbelts that are way too high up the neck for smaller children, not all have ISOFIX points, not all have child restraint points or childproof window locks. Parents would not wish to buy a car that’s safe in the front but not in the rear. Lots can be done without a crash test.
- Test usability. Driver distraction is a big problem, and the problem is modern cars are becoming harder to use. Fiddly, slow screens, low-mounted controls are problems leading to driver distraction which as we’re constantly reminded, is a major factor in crashes. This is hard to measure, but here’s some ideas. The basic controls (aircon, volume etc) should be easily operated without looking at the controls, or referring to the owner’s manual! No control should require more than one additional control to be operated, a standard already used or considered by the likes of Google with Android Auto and Apple with CarPlay.
- Account for vehicle maneuverability and braking. Already done by JNCAP and KNCAP to some extent. We have minimum standards for roadworthiness, but it would be good to see which cars can stop most safely and quickly. All else being equal, heavier cars take longer to stop so that starts to cancel the bigger car = safer idea.
- Measure visibility. Modern cars are generally hard to see out of as windows become smaller, A-pillars become thicker because of airbags and strength. If the driver can’t see out properly, then that’s a huge problem. It would not be too hard to use three standard drivers (short, average, tall) and take a visibility index. Wouldn’t even need to crash a car.
- Rate more SAT. Safety Assistance Technologies can hugely improve a car’s safety, so how about giving credit for everything a car has, rather than a minimum extra of 6 points?
Define safety ratings for specific types of user. We’d also like to see safety on a user-needs basis. Let’s say you buy a new 4WD wagon. Let’s look at two different types of common user:The trailer tower – let’s say grey nomads on a ski trip – they may well be towing a big trailer. SAT like tyre pressure monitoring, trailer stability control, fatigue detection, rollover detection and active cruise control would be important to them. High-speed AEB would be valuable.The suburban family – never going to tow, mostly local use. Here we need low-speed (city) AEB, reversing cameras and a focus on second and third-row safety.Essentially, the use you put the car to will determine what sort of safety tech is best, and ANCAP should factor that in, either with sub-ratings by use, or a guide to common car usage scenarios. This would also help people option their cars.
- More stars so we can easily compare cars
No. Rather than increase the number of stars awarded to a vehicle, ANCAP will maintain its 1-5 star rating scale with 5 stars remaining the maximum safety rating possible. The requirements to achieve each of the existing star rating levels however will increase year on year. To encourage the early introduction of new vehicle safety features and advanced safety technologies – promoting continuous improvement in vehicle safety – ANCAP has been progressively raising the bar since 2011.
To achieve an ANCAP safety rating – of whichever star rating level – a vehicle must achieve minimum scores in each of the physical tests as well as meet minimum requirements for the inclusion of key safety features and SAT which may help prevent, or minimise the impact of, a crash. In the next few years, ANCAP will introduce further updates to the existing suite of physical tests as well as add new physical and performance tests to its test regime.
How will ANCAP change its test in the future?
What are your views? Do you think the ANCAP ratings are good enough, or need an overhaul, and if so, how?