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Thatcham Research is today revealing the ten-car longlist for the hotly contested What Car? Safety Award 2018. As the panel of expert judges gather to decide on the year’s safest car, their focus will be on emerging car safety technologies designed to prevent accidents.
This year, vehicles must have standard-fit Lane Keep Assist systems, to help avoid some of the most dangerous collision types seen on UK roads. All the top ten cars also have standard-fit Autonomous Emergency Braking systems, which operate at city and motorway speeds and can detect pedestrians. In addition, judges will give extra merit to vehicles with AEB systems that can identify cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
“The top ten safest cars of the year all have standard-fit Lane Keep Assist systems. These systems actively steer away from road edges and lane markings to prevent dangerous ‘run-off road’ and head-on accidents. With six per cent of A-Road crashes involving head-on collisions, this should be the next life-saving technology fitted by carmakers who want to signal their intent to prioritise driver safety,” comments Matthew Avery, What Car? Safety Award panellist and director of research at Thatcham Research.
“Drivers buying a new car should expect AEB on their vehicle. It’s now an essential standard-fit safety system, just like the seatbelt,” says Avery. “And if the car doesn’t have AEB? Walk away and find one which does.”
The car safety tech to watch out for
The What Car? Safety Award judges will also examine the relative performance of differing AEB systems, and other car safety technologies such as:
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC): 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 following distance, regardless of the speed set. Drivers that use ACC have been shown to have fewer collisions since it helps to condition the driver to maintain a safe distance to the car in front.
Blind Spot Indication System (BLIS): Stops 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 intervene by braking or steering back into lane. While only 3 per cent of motorway accidents involve one car pulling in front of another, at the high speeds of those roads the consequences can be disastrous.
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. The performance of AEB systems in detecting cyclists is coming into Euro NCAP test protocols from 2018.
Driver Monitoring: Some systems can monitor and in turn warn the driver if they are distracted or have been inattentive for a prolonged period – and some which will pull the car over to the side of the road if the driver has not responded.
Rear Cross Traffic Alert: monitors an approaching vehicle from the side and warns the driver or applies the brakes to prevent them from reversing from a parking space into the path of another vehicle. 92 injuries occurred in 2016 as a direct result of reversing cars.
Avery continues: “The future of car safety is in the technology. A five-star Euro NCAP rating guarantees drivers a safe car. But some are still safer than others and this award is about celebrating those carmakers who continue to push the boundaries of safety, going above and beyond even the exacting levels that a five-star Euro NCAP rating demands.”
The Top 10 Safest Cars of the Year
The 10 cars the judges will consider for the What Car? Safety Award 2018 in alphabetical order:
The 10 safest cars of 2017
Honda Civic – Mercedes X-Class – Subaru Impreza – Subaru XV – Toyota C-HR – Vauxhall Insignia – Volvo S90 / V90 – Volvo XC60 – VW Arteon – VW T-Roc
Steve Huntingford, What Car? editor said, “It’s great to see that big advances have been made in safety technology in 2017, with driver assistance systems becoming more sophisticated and even better at helping drivers to avoid a wider range of accidents. Consumers can be confident that they’re buying the safest possible new car if they pick one from the top 10.”
For more information about the cars under consideration for the award, and to learn more about buying safe cars and car safety technology, visit