The European Commission is pushing for 19 new ‘life-saving’ technologies to be included as standard on new cars with the aim of halving road deaths by 2020.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION cops a lot of criticism that it’s out of touch with reality, but those critics clearly haven’t cast their glance towards Australia. I mean, here we’ve got some of the worst, most polluting regular unleaded fuel in the world and we seem to have an aversion to renewable energy and weaning ourselves off burning stuff we’ve ripped out of the ground.

And let’s not get started on poor old ANCAP which is running results from locally conducted crash tests and extrapolating the results from EuroNCAP crash tests. You might get to a five-star rating, but the testing along the way has given weighting to different areas. That said, from next year, ANCAP will have adopted the EuroNCAP crash test protocol and we’ll finally have figures that are obtained in exactly the same way, and weighted in exactly the same ways as those in Europe.

But, that’s only half the issue. See, according to a report released by the European Commission early last week, a number of car makers are sending their safest cars, the ones that get five stars in crash testing, to the wealthiest countries. With those that are struggling economically, in Europe specifically, but you can apply the same theory all around the world, getting cars missing even basic life-saving gear many of us take for granted in our cars.

And then there’s the situation in Australia, and in parts of Europe too, that only those who spend more money and buy the top-spec variant of a car can get access to the full complement of life-saving technologies. Yet still, in many cases the five-star crash test rating will apply across the board. Hmmm.

The European Commission is pushing for car makers to make the following items standard on their cars, no matter the variant, saying “the selected measures appear to be feasible and cost-effective”. The aim, the EC claims is to reduce the number of road collision deaths in Europe (26,000 annually) down to 15,000 by 2020.

The four main areas of safety are: automatic emergency braking; lane keeping assist; driver drowsiness detection; and intelligent speed adaptation. And the EC wants improvements to the following areas: 

Emergency braking display (flashing stop lamps), seat belt reminder, frontal crash testing, side crash testing, rear crash testing, alcohol interlock device interface standardisation, crash event data recorder and tyre pressure monitoring. It also wants “the introduction of pedestrian and cyclist detection (linked to automatic emergency braking systems), head impact protection on A-pillars and front windscreen, as well as reversing (backing up) detection of persons behind vehicles”.

One very simple solution to apply some pressure on car makers would be to issue a lower crash rating for the models that don’t get things like seatbelt reminders on all seats, or autonomous emergency braking, etc as standard. Only be publicly listing the vehicles that fail to meet our ‘expectations’ of safety will car makers actually make new life-saving safety systems standard.

Yes, cars will likely see a price increase to compensate for the added safety technology, but I doubt buyers would be dissuaded, especially when they wouldn’t be able to buy something cheaper, lacking in the necessary safety gear.

So, what’s next. Well, the Australian Government should take a look at the European Commission’s proposals and show some leadership by mandating them in Australia and update our ADRs. This would, in turn, put pressure on the likes of ANCAP to accurately score vehicles based on what they have and what they don’t. Is that asking too much?


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