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On the 29th October, safety-ratings agency EuroNCAP released the results of its first rear-end collision avoidance tests. From January 2014, EuroNCAP will give credit to vehicle manufacturers who equip their models with robust forward collision warning and/or automatic braking technology in its ratings scheme.

The following eight vehicles were involved in the test: Mercedes-Benz E-Class (PRE-SAFE Brake);

Volvo V40 (City Safety & Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake); Mitsubishi Outlander (Forward Collision Mitigation); Volvo XC60 (City Safety); Fiat 500L (City Brake Control); Ford Focus (Active City Stop); Volkswagen Golf VII (Front Assist) and Honda Civic (Collision Mitigation Brake System).

Each car tested was awarded up to 3 points and classified as follows: Good (2-3 points), Adequate (1-2 points) or Marginal (0-1 points). The test was divided into two parts: a low-speed test up to 50 km/hour (30 mph) and a higher-speed test up to 80 km/hour (48 mph).

In these tests, EuroNCAP divided the collision warning and mitigation technologies into two groups based on the type of crash they were designed to mitigate:

·    ‘AEB City’ – which operates at low driving speeds and is designed to reduce rear end shunts often associated with whiplash neck injuries. Cars travel at closer distances in slow traffic which minimizes the driver’s ability to avoid a crash at the last minute. As a result, these types of devices only provide an automatic braking function

·    ‘Inter-Urban AEB’ – which operates at higher speeds and is designed to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes that may be caused by driver inattentiveness or distraction. At higher driving speeds, there is often sufficient time for the driver to take action to avoid the crash. Therefore, AEB Interurban systems often provide a forward collision warning function with enhanced braking performance, which can be complemented with an automatic brake function in case the driver does not respond to the warning.

AEB City systems are typically equipped with either laser sensors or optical cameras whilst AEB Interurban systems rely mostly on radar sensors. The sensors are fitted either behind the windscreen near the interior mirror or on the front of the vehicle.

AEB City systems were tested by driving the vehicle towards a stationary vehicle at speeds of 10-50 km/hour (6-30 mph) whilst the AEB Interurban systems were evaluated under the following three scenarios:

·     Whilst driving towards a stationary vehicle at 30-80 km/hour (18-48 mph)

·    Whilst closing in on a slower vehicle in front (which is travelling at say 20 km/hour) at a speed range of 30-80 km/hour (18-48 mph)

·     Whilst following a car in front which suddenly starts to brake at 50 km/hour (48 mph)

Of the six cars tested in the low-speed test, maximum points were scored by Mercedes-Benz E-Class (3 points) followed by the Volvo V40 (2.9 points), Mitsubishi Outlander (2.1 points) all of which were thus rated “Good,” whilst the Volvo XC60 (1.9 points), Fiat 500L (1.8 points) and Ford Focus (1.7 points) were rated as “Adequate.”

Of the five cars tested in the higher-speed test, the highest score was again obtained by the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2.7 points) followed by the Volvo V40 (2.6 points) and the Volkswagen Golf (2.2 points) which were thus rated “Good.” Of the remaining two cars, the Mitsubishi Outlander was rated as “Adequate” (1.9 points) whilst the Honda Civic was rated as “Marginal” (0.44 points).

Although these systems were not tested under any inclement weather conditions, the tests nevertheless showed real differences in performance, and these differences were markedly greater in the higher speed Inter-Urban AEB tests. Seeing one car avoiding a collision whereas another ploughs into the car in-front is a powerful image that will surely play a strong role in influencing the purchasing decisions of any safety-conscious buyer, particularly parents.  For those OEMs who scored well in these tests, this is clearly a marketing opportunity to be leveraged to the hilt, whilst for the others it is a wake-up call, particularly those OEMs that do not offer any of these systems at the present time.

Insurance claims data suggests that collision warning systems can reduce rear-end crashes by one quarter or more and lead to a significant reduction of injuries. Euro NCAP’s decision to include AEB in its ratings reflects a growing awareness of the potential of these active safety systems and car OEMs are now clearly challenged to raise the availability and performance of AEB on new car models. The introduction of AEB along with Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist technology will define Euro NCAP’s ‘Year of Active Safety’ in 2014.

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