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Carmakers challenged to follow Volvo’s lead as it earns another safety accolade

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Carmakers challenged to follow Volvo’s lead as it earns another safety accolade

  • Technology designed ‘to avoid the crash in the first place’ gains Volvo XC60 What Car? Safety Award
  • Volkswagen T-Roc and Subaru XV Highly Commended by judges
  • Safety campaigners re-issue call for carmakers to fit Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard on all new cars, with only 7% of new Ford and 14% of new Vauxhall cars having standard-fit AEB

The Volvo XC60 is one of the safest cars ever made, according to a panel of expert judges who have declared it winner of the What Car? Safety Award. The five-door SUV impressed with the unrivalled protection it offers to occupants in the event of an accident. Crucially however, the Volvo XC60 is also fitted with a host of pioneering Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS[1] designed to avoid crashes occurring at all.

Bursting at the seams with safety technology

Key Volvo XC60 safety technologies include: AEB systems which operate at a variety of speeds and driving environments, and can detect pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals; a suite of Lane Support Systems to alert the driver when the car is drifting and actively steer to avoid head-on collisions; Blind Spot Indication Systems; Rear Cross Traffic Alerts; and a Run-Off Road system.

As a result, Euro NCAP awarded the Volvo XC60 a score of 95% for its safety assistance features.

Safety Award judge and director of research at Thatcham Research Matthew Avery comments, “The Volvo XC60 achieved a very high adult occupant protection score of 98%, in Euro NCAP’s toughest crash tests ever. But it is also bursting at the seams with safety technology to avoid the crash happening at all. It is so far ahead of the game that its innovative Cross Traffic Alert and Turn Across Path systems are not yet a part of the Euro NCAP programme.”

“This car has always broken new ground. In 2008 the original Volvo XC60 was the first to be launched with standard-fit AEB. Back then, it was a relatively basic system which functioned at low speeds, car-to-car. The AEB systems on the new XC60 can handle a full range of different driving speeds and environments and will also detect Vulnerable Road Users and even large animals.”

The Volvo XC60 was not the only vehicle to receive praise for the levels of safety offered to drivers. Two other new vehicles were highly commended by the panel of expert judges – the Volkswagen T-Roc and the Subaru XV.

T-Roc solid

Avery comments, “The Volkswagen T-Roc is a safety standard-bearer in the ever-growing small SUV segment. It’s AEB systems come as standard and performed exceedingly well in Euro NCAP testing. It also comes with Adaptive Cruise Control – a great comfort feature which helps drivers to keep a safe distance from the car in front – and a Lane Keep Assist system to gently steer a drifting car back into lane, both standard-fit. Volkswagen should be commended for the commitment to safety it has shown in 2017 – the Volkswagen Arteon was also in the running for safest car of the year, the Polo is a Euro NCAP best-in-class winner and it became the first van manufacturer to commit to fitting AEB on all new vehicles.”

Super Subaru

“The Subaru XV was the other stand-out performer in 2017,” continues Avery. “It’s got a stereo camera-based AEB system, which is especially good at identifying pedestrians and cyclists, an effective Blind Spot Indication System and a Lane Keep Assist system – again, all fitted as standard to maximise their potential to reduce accident rates. Subaru is a smaller carmaker which has always found a way to prioritise safety, so it’s great to see those efforts commended.”

Will carmakers follow Volvo, VW and Subaru’s lead?

Today, standard-fitment of AEB on new cars has reached 61%. But, only three of the SMMT’s 10 best-selling cars[2] in 2017 had AEB as standard across all trims, while number one seller the Ford Fiesta only offers this potentially life-saving technology as an option.

“Achieving a five-star Euro NCAP rating without standard-fit AEB will be close to impossible for vehicle manufacturers from 2018 onwards,” comments Avery. “Many market AEB as an optional extra but with its potential to save so many lives it is far too important not to be fitted as standard. While Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) accidents affecting occupants are coming down, KSIs involving Vulnerable Road Users such as pedestrians and cyclists are on the increase. Protecting people outside of the car, as well as those inside, is clearly important to our Safety Award finalists.”

In 2018 2.6 million cars have standard-fit AEB, approximately 6.9% of the 38 million cars on the road today.

“Standard-fitment of AEB is still not at the levels it should be. Jaguar Land Rover is the only carmaker amongst the top 10 best-selling brands to fit AEB on all new models. While standard-fit AEB penetration for Ford, the top selling brand in the UK, stands at just 7%[3] today,” says Avery.

How to make safety a deal breaker

Thatcham Research is also calling upon car buyers to make safety a deal breaker and either only buy cars which have AEB as standard or ask that it be added to the overall purchase price. Avery comments, “Drivers can’t rely on manufacturers to deliver AEB on every new car just yet. Until that day comes car buyers should do their research and follow our top tips for making safety a deal breaker.”

Make sure it’s a five-star car: Head to Euro NCAP’s website and check the safety score of any car you’re considering. If it hasn’t earned a five-star rating, don’t buy it.

Demand AEB: Understand whether the car has AEB as standard or as an option. If it’s not available, score that car off your list. If it’s only optional ask the dealer to fit it as part of the sale. If they won’t, take your business to one who will.

Don’t be fobbed off: Dealers might downplay the importance of safety systems to sell you an in-stock car that doesn’t have them. Don’t be tempted by the instant option, insist on a car that has the kit you want.

For more information on the winning vehicles, the What Car? Safety Award and ADAS technologies, visit:


[1] See Editor’s Notes for ADAS Glossary

[2] See Editor’s Notes for further info

[3] See Editor’s Notes for further info

Editor’s Notes

ADAS Glossary

ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control): By maintaining a safe gap to the car in front adaptive cruise control can help cut incidents caused by tailgating. As with AEB, ACC can use cameras, radar or lidar to determine the gap to the vehicle in front. Unlike normal cruise control, adaptive systems use the radar (or sometimes camera) to maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front regardless of your set speed. Drivers that use ACC have been shown to have fewer collisions since it is suggested that it helps to condition the driver to maintain safe driving distances.

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking): Autonomous emergency braking systems can detect an impending crash and slow or stop the car if the driver fails to act. Systems can use lidar, radar, camera or a combination of these to monitor the road in front of the car. If a vehicle in front slows suddenly the system will alert the driver and, if they fail to act, apply the brakes automatically. Some systems only work at lower, urban speeds while others function up to motorway speeds. Real world data shows that AEB is reducing the most common crash type, the rear end collision, by 38%.

ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems): Car safety technologies designed to avoid or mitigate accidents and keep the driver engaged in the task of driving.

BLIS (Blind Spot Indication System): This technology is designed to stop drivers moving into the path of an overtaking vehicle that is hidden in the blind spot. It commonly uses radar, to sense the presence of another vehicle including motorcycles and will give a visual or audible warning - usually a light in the wing mirror or door pillar - to alert the driver. Some systems actively intervene to prevent the driver moving into the other vehicle's path by braking or steering back into lane.

Cyclist AEB: Vulnerable road users, including cyclists and pedestrians account for 30 per cent of all fatalities or serious injuries across the EU each year. The smaller size and more erratic movement of cyclists compared with cars makes them harder for standard AEB systems to track. As with pedestrian AEB, cyclist detection systems use better sensors and algorithms to detect the presence of cyclists and respond to their movements.

LKA (Lane Keep Assist): Lane Keep Assist systems will gently correct a vehicle’s steering to ensure the vehicle stays within the white lines and road edge. Not to be confused with Lane Departure Warning systems that only warn the driver, LKA systems actively but subtly steer the vehicle back into lane. With LKA, a front-facing camera tracks road markings to determine if the vehicle is straying out of its lane and potentially off the road or into the path of another vehicle. Six per cent of A road crashes are head-on collisions where a vehicle has left its own lane.

LDW (Lane Departure Warning): LKA’s less effective and less popular younger brother, LDW will only alert the driver when it is changing lanes without indicating. Constant beeps and bongs from the car when driving means that the best LDW systems are subtle and do not irritate the driver into switching them off.

Pedestrian AEB: Detects potential collisions with pedestrians and intervenes to reduce or avoid the impact. With 5,588 pedestrians killed or seriously injured on UK roads in 2016 the widespread implementation of pedestrian AEB could have a dramatic impact on reducing road casualties. Because of the particular shape and movement of pedestrians, pedestrian AEB must be much more sensitive and discerning.

RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert): Using the same corner sensors as the Blind Spot Warning systems, this monitors an approaching vehicle from the side and protects the driver from reversing from a parking space into the path of another vehicle. The systems tend to warn the driver but some actively brake the vehicle to prevent a collision.

Reverse AEB: A fifth of accidents involve reversing into another car and insurance claims for such incidents cost £1.7 billion annually. Far more seriously, not being aware of what is behind you can result in serious or fatal injuries to children, pedestrians and cyclists. Reverse AEB goes a step further than warning beeps, actively applying the brakes of the car if the driver fails to heed the alerts.

TAP (Turn Across Path): Using the same corner sensors as BLIS, this monitors an approaching vehicle from the side and protects the driver from reversing from a parking space into the path of another vehicle. The systems tend to warn the driver but some actively brake the vehicle to prevent a collision.

AEB standard fitment across UK's top 10 best-selling cars 2017 (Thatcham Research data / SMMT sales volume data Nov 2017)

1. Ford Fiesta Optional
2. Volkswagen Golf Standard
3. Ford Focus Optional on most models
4. Nissan Qashqai Standard on most models
5. Vauxhall Corsa Optional
6. Volkswagen Polo Optional on most models
7. Vauxhall Astra Optional on most models
8. Mercedes C-Class Standard
9. MINI hatchback Optional
10. Mercedes A-Class Standard
AEB standard fitment across the UK's top 10 best-selling car brands (Thatcham Research data / SMMT sales volume data Dec 2017)
Rank Brand % of standard-fit AEB in brand
1. Ford 7%
2. Vauxhall 14%
3. Volkswagen 46%
4. Mercedes-Benz 88%
5. Nissan 30%
6. BMW 23%
7. Audi 16%
8. Toyota 53%
9. Jaguar Land Rover 100%
10. Kia 14%


Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’.

As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research tests and accredits crash repair parts, vehicle repair technicians, and a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

In addition, Thatcham Research has been at the forefront of vehicle security since the 1990s when it introduced the New Vehicle Security Assessment (NVSA) to address levels of vehicle crime.

A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham Research has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.

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As the UK's only insurer funded automotive research centre, Thatcham Research enjoy a wide remit at the forefront of the latest vehicle technology. Thatcham's leading work in vehicle safety and security has a vital role in shaping the designs of new vehicles, whilst the centre is also seen as a key industry player at the forefront of driving standards in vehicle body repair.

Thatcham's Crash Laboratory is the only official UK crash testing centre for consumer safety body Euro NCAP and are viewed as a centre of excellence when it comes to active vehicle safety, particularly the evaluation of new Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) which provide the foundation for future vehicle autonomy.

Enjoying an increasingly global influence in both the insurance and automotive sectors, Thatcham Research expertise is in great demand with a range of opinion leaders being regularly asked to provide their experience and know-how at high profile events and in the media, living up to their reputation as ‘Experts in Safety, Security and Crash Repair’.

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