The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) is a consumer protection-oriented program to evaluate the safety of passenger cars. It is supported by a consortium of European transport ministries, automobile associations, insurance associations and research institutes. Since 1997, the Euro NCAP has become the key valuation benchmark for vehicle safety for manufacturers and consumers. Today, twelve institutions from eight European countries participate in the program. Almost all new vehicles are tested and evaluated by Euro NCAP for their passive and active safety. The results are published and allow car buyers to quickly and comprehensively obtain information on the vehicle safety of an automobile.
The test requirements to achieve the maximum score were changed progressively in recent years. Since 2014, the vehicle manufacturers have had to meet significant new requirements in multiple areas in order to achieve the highest rating (5 stars). In particular, the four categories were rebalanced. The adult occupant protection was worth as much as 50 percent of the evaluation. Child safety and pedestrian protection were each worth 20 percent. Driver assistance systems was worth only 10 percent of the overall evaluation. As of 2014, the active safety systems are now twice as heavily considered, specifically, 20 percent. The Euro NCAP follows the overall trend, in which the new systems, the active occupant and pedestrian protections, are becoming increasingly important.
The integration of active and passive safety systems in a vehicle will lead to accidents being increasingly avoided or mitigated in the future. An active braking or steering intervention can, for example, reduce the collision speed and thus reduce the severity of accidents. Therefore, it is logical that the Euro NCAP more strongly consider these technological developments.
Moreover, the existing requirements on passive safety are continuously revised. For adult occupant protection, child safety and pedestrian protection, there have been significant changes to the program since 2015, to react to the manufacturers and suppliers of new technology solutions.
This will lead to the better evaluation of the protection of occupants of various ages and body sizes in conjunction with the restraint systems, in a frontal collision. Therefore, a new crash test was introduced in 2015. This test comprises the frontal impact of a vehicle against a rigid barrier at 50 km/h. Till that point, only the level of protection for an average adult was rated – and using a so-called 50th percentile dummy. In the future, the protection of small, lightweight rear passengers will also be assessed (using the so-called 5th percentile dummy). It will also determine how well a smaller, lighter occupant is protected in the passenger seat. The new provisions are designed primarily as a result of the improvements in restraint systems for small occupants.
To determine the protective potential of vehicles in side impacts, two different crash tests are currently applied. In it, an impact was recreated with a movable barrier with a deformation element at 50 km/h on the side of the vehicle. A lateral pole crash at 29 km/h was also tested. Since 2015, both tests have become more demanding. For the movable barrier, a much larger deformation element is now used, the barrier itself, at 1,300 kg, is significantly heavier than previously. For the pole impact, the impact angle is only 75 degrees instead of 90 degrees, and the collision speed has now increased to 32 km/h. This thus increases the overall requirements for side impact protection. Manufacturers responded with more extensive protective measures, stiffer body components and additional head airbags.
Starting in 2016, new criteria apply for child safety in frontal and side impacts. The previously used dummies have been replaced by new ones, where possible risks of injury can be detected more accurately. Moreover, dummies are tested in new sizes. In frontal and side impact, dummies are used in child seats that represent a 1.5-year-old and a 3-year-old child. In the future, test bodies will be used to represent children aged six and ten years. This change of dummies leads to a focus on the safety of children not only in child safety seats. In addition, the occupant restraint systems of the vehicle itself, especially belts, must better meet the needs of children. In addition, it will also evaluate how well child seats can be installed in the vehicle. For this, the simplest, customizable solutions are defined as the target. The background to this new requirement is that children are too often being secured incorrectly in child safety seats, which are not fully effective in the event of an accident.
For the assessment of pedestrian protection, the recent legform impactor more accurately reflects the physical characteristics and vulnerabilities of the human leg. Thus, more attention will be paid to the protection against excessively stretched ligaments and bends at the knee. Manufacturers should consider this especially in the design of the front portion of new vehicles. For the assessment of head impacts, different measuring points on the hood, the A-pillar and windshield are now taken into account. To meet the increased demands, manufacturers use different constructive solutions, such as external airbags, deployable hoods or more free deformation spaces under the hood.
Previously, the Euro NCAP only evaluated few supporting safety systems, such as seat belt reminders and electronic stability control. Since 2014, automatic emergency braking systems (AEBS) have also been examined and evaluated. Emergency braking systems for city driving are tested below 50 km/h, and enable vehicles facing each other head on to brake automatically. Emergency braking systems for highways are tested in scenarios where a vehicle runs too close to a slower or braking vehicle and should brake without driver intervention. From 2016, there will be additional testing, such as emergency braking reacting to pedestrians. The findings of the so-called AEB systems for unprotected road users are then assigned to protect pedestrians.
These active safety systems must always be present in the vehicle in the future, in order to continue to earn the maximum score of 5 stars in the Euro NCAP test. These very substantial changes in the overall evaluation system have been implemented in recent years. By the year 2020, requirements in all areas, frontal impact, side impact, active safety systems, will be further developed.