Automotive research centre, Thatcham Research, has today revealed the UK’s five safest cars and the five best technology developments in the automotive world during 2020, forming the shortlists for the respective 2021 What Car? Car of the Year Safety and Technology awards.
Safety in numbers
The What Car? Car of the Year Safety Award recognises the carmakers that have produced the safest cars during 2020 and the shortlist is drawn up based on results from the latest Euro NCAP safety testing. Judges also considered affordability, sales volumes and any additional innovative safety technologies not currently tested by Euro NCAP. The outright winner and two runners-up will be announced on twitter on 14 January 2021.
The five cars that are bidding to scoop the coveted safety award in 2021 have faced more scrutiny than ever before, thanks to stricter Euro NCAP testing protocols that came into force during 2020.
A new ‘passive’ safety assessment which encourages manufacturers of bigger vehicles to share the burden of impacts with smaller vehicles tests ‘compatibility’ for the first time, while new side impact tests assess occupant containment via inner seat-mounted airbags and injury risk when occupants are in contact with far-side internal structures.
There are also two new ‘active’ safety tests that assess the ability of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems to prevent ‘Turn Across Path’ collisions at junctions and reversing accidents.
And the nominations are…
A panel of Thatcham Research and What Car? judges have chosen the following cars, in alphabetical order, as their shortlist nominations. Avery offers his expert insight:
Honda Jazz: “The Jazz is a solid performer across all test categories and even topped the 2020 charts with a score of 80% for the protection it offers to vulnerable road users. The introduction of a centre-mounted airbag to limit front seat occupant interaction in far side collisions also helped this hybrid achieve an impressive 87% in the adult occupant protection category.”
Mazda MX-30: “This is Mazda’s debut EV and is aimed at the more affordable end of the market. It achieved the second highest adult occupant protection score in 2020 and its impressive passive safety credentials were strengthened by its 87% score in the child occupant protection tests.”
SEAT Leon: “This is an affordable small family car that offers sound safety performance across the board. It’s 92% score for adult occupant protection was the best in 2020 and the introduction of a centre airbag to prevent occupant-to-occupant interaction in a side impact supported that result. The presence of a multi-collision braking system is also a useful addition as standard.”
Toyota Yaris: “The Yaris represents good value for money as a super mini with a solid level of active and passive safety technology. This means its good at preventing accidents, having scored 85% for safety assist, while its 78% score in the vulnerable road user category means it also offers strong protection to other road users.”
Volkswagen ID.3: “VW’s first fully-electric car has been designed from the ground up and has been impressive straight out of the box. It top-scored in both the safety assist and child occupant protection categories during testing and features the latest in restraint technology, including innovative side airbags to protect non-struck-side occupants.”
INSURERS TAKE NOTE – PEOPLE WHO BUY ADAS FEATURES ARE THINKING ABOUT SAFETY
Technology to the fore
Five nominations have secured a place on the What Car? Car of the Year Technology Award shortlist, and they have the potential to improve both vehicle and driver safety now and into the future.
For insurers, MGAs and brokers it’s worth engaging with consumers far more on the way that tech can act as a driving coach, not just a passive safety net that offers a magic wand solution. Some drivers want the responsibility of decision making to be the car’s, not theirs, and so separating those drivers who expect anti-collision systems to avoid all accidents, from those who understand they still have to use skills like judgement, paying full attention and `reading’ the traffic, will be a subtle yet profound risk assessment.
Each innovation has been identified and evaluated by a panel of judges from Thatcham Research and What Car? The winner and two runners-up will be revealed on 11 January 2021.
“Pioneering technology is what drives vehicle development and safety forward so it’s imperative the most innovative systems are highlighted and celebrated through this award,” Matthew Avery explained. “Vehicle manufacturers are doing some very clever things to ensure their cars offer comfort and convenience benefits, while making the driving experience safer and more engaging.”
And the nominations are…
Android Automotive OS
What is it? Android Automotive OS is a new breed of infotainment platform built into cars by car makers. Removing the reliance on potentially distracting touchscreens because the voice-activated Google Assistant is built into the car, drivers can download media apps direct to their vehicle, with no mobile device required. Android Automotive OS can also be adapted via over-the-air updates.
Ford Kuga Lane-Keeping System with Blind Spot Assist
What is it? Ford’s new Lane-Keeping System with Blind Spot Assist made its debut on the Kuga SUV in 2020 and builds on the capability of the brand’s Blind Spot Information System.TheLane-Keeping System with Blind Spot Assist technology monitors the driver’s blind spot for vehicles approaching from behind, and can apply gentle counter-steering force to warn the driver and discourage a lane change manoeuvre if a potential collision is detected.
Kia Blind Spot View Monitor (pictured below)
What is it? This advanced driver assistance system aims to enhance safety for Sorento occupants and other road users by eliminating a driver’s left- and right-side blind spots. It displays a high-resolution video feed on the dashboard instrument panel when the driver indicates to change lane with another vehicle hidden in their blind spot. The video feed is generated by discreet wide-angle cameras, one hidden in each of the door mirror housings.
Tesla over-the-air updates
What is it? This technology wirelessly sends new features to Tesla vehicles that improve functionality, performance and safety. Tesla, which has faced criticism from Thatcham Research about the mis-use of its Autopilot technology, has used OTA updates to make a raft of notable improvements to its vehicles during 2020, including the addition of vision-based speed assist capability, a cabin camera to capture video clips prior to a collision or safety event, dash-cam viewer improvements, and traffic light warnings.
Volvo Advanced Interior Air Cleaner
What is it? This air purification system removes harmful particulates from a Volvo’s cabin atmosphere to ensure occupants breathe clean and healthy air. Incoming air passes through an ioniser that pre-charges the microscopic particles which then stick to a fibre-based filter that carries an opposite charge.
The winners will be announced later this month.