How NCAP evaluates the safety of a car


Euro NCAP, the acronym in English for the European New Car Assessment Program, is the main program at European level, and one of the largest references in the world in terms of evaluating the safety of automobiles. The Euro NCAP tests are a series of tests to which cars launched on the European market are subjected, which are used to measure and assess safety levels.

How NCAP evaluates the safety of a car

After 20 years of service, Euro NCAP has managed to save thousands of lives by significantly improving the safety of our cars. Currently, it has the collaboration of manufacturers, organizations, state governments and consumer associations that place them as a benchmark in terms of road safety.

What is Euro NCAP

The studies that have been carried out bring up to almost 80,000 lives that have been saved since the crash tests were introduced in 1997, rigorous crash tests with which Euro NCAP evaluates the safety of each car that goes on sale. In this time, more than 600 assessments have been made in terms of safety, the crash has been tested and evaluated in more than 1,800 types of cars and many safety measures have been introduced that, years ago, seemed like a pipe dream.

The beginnings of Euro NCAP

When the first tests were carried out in 1997, the great safety deficiencies among the best-selling cars of the moment were seen. At that point, the way in which vehicle safety was addressed was reconsidered and, today, 90% of the cars sold in Europe are assessed by Euro NCAP, adapting to the increasingly rigorous requirements.

The evolution of security

If we compare the results of the Euro NCAP tests produced by the crash tests from 1997 to today, we will observe the enormous advances that have been made in terms of safety:

  • Ducted and passenger airbags
  • side airbags
  • Witnesses for the seat belt
  • ESP: electronic safety control

These are some of the common measures in most cars today that substantially improve vehicle safety. But if so, much progress has been made, if cars pass tests that are more and more demanding, it is not only because they protect pedestrians and passengers from a crash, but also because of the measures introduced that prevent these accidents from happening.

Car manufacturers have to demonstrate that their vehicles are technologically and adequately equipped to be able to avoid accidents, for example, by braking before an obstacle or redirecting the car when it is about to leave its lane. Thanks to the time of technological improvements that we are experiencing and the impetus of Euro NCAP, current cars are much safer. However, the skill and know-how of the driver is always important.

How NCAP assesses active safety

Euro NCAP evaluates the safety of cars through tests that represent real actions that occur on the road and that can mean damage, or even death, for both passengers and pedestrians. In these tests, car manufacturers have to demonstrate that their cars are seriously equipped with the necessary technological and technical elements to prevent an accident from occurring or to mitigate its effects when it is irreversible.

The information offered by these tests, called crash tests, tells us about safety against:

  • frontal impacts
  • Sides
  • Cervical whiplash.

frontal crashes

If we take into account that frontal crashes are the accidents that cause the most injuries and deaths each year, it is not surprising that they are very important in the Euro NCAP score. To assess the safety of a car in these accidents, it is subjected to frontal/lateral impacts at a speed of 64 km/h using deformable barriers with the consistency and structure of another car colliding at a speed of 50 km/h.

The full-frontal impact is against a totally rigid barrier at a speed of 50 km/h. In all cases, dummies are used, the name given to the monitored dolls that receive and simulate the injuries that men, women and children would suffer.

side crashes

Side crashes are, after side crashes, the accidents that annually produce the most deaths and injuries. The crash tests used by Euro NCAP to measure the impacts and safety of vehicles are made by impacting a deformable barrier at a speed of 50 km/h towards a car.

In another test, it is made to hit a rigid and narrow mast, which could simulate a telephone pole or a signal, circulating at a speed of 32 km/h. In all cases, the protection of the ducts and the rest of the car’s occupants is measured with dummies. Through these crash tests it has been possible to increase the protection of the members by means of reinforcements in the structure of the car or adding side airbags.

How NCAP assesses passive safety

Euro NCAP is not only interested in passive safety systems, that is, those that absorb the power of the blow or that prevent the damage of the accident from being greater, but are also concerned that there are active systems that prevent that accident from reaching to occur. In this sense, since 2015 the AEB, the autonomous braking systems, which are activated when the car detects a possible accident, have been analyzed.

Bearing in mind that many of the injuries that occur in the city are whiplash injuries due to rear-end collisions, AEB is a highly effective system to prevent them from happening. However, other measures that are taken into account to give the final score of a vehicle are:

  • Witness to warn that the seat belt is not on
  • security control system
  • Intercity AEB, measured at a speed between 30 and 80 km/h
  • Unintentional Lane Change Assist
  • In addition, tests that measure the seats as well as the headrests and restraint systems are also included.

One of the things that may surprise you about how Euro NCAP evaluates the safety of cars is that the crashes they are subjected to are not at high speed. The truth is that more importance is given to the response of the vehicle in probable situations than not knowing what is the maximum that it can withstand. In any case, car manufacturing companies already have their own systems with which they simulate impacts in which their cars could be involved. All this has allowed that, today, even cheap new cars have much higher safety standards than large high-end cars from 10 or 20 years ago.


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