16 Nov 2016
Global NCAP 2016 Annual Awards

Recognising outstanding promoters of consumer protection and innovation in vehicle safety

Global NCAP’s Annual Awards recognise outstanding promoters of consumer protection and innovation in vehicle safety.  The winners this year are the UN World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations, Thatcham Research, and consumer champion Ralph Nader.

David Ward Secretary General of Global NCAP said,

“This year’s Consumer Champion award goes to the UN World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations. The Forum is responsible for the world’s most important vehicle safety standards. It provides all countries with a fast track method to apply regulations that promote crash worthiness and crash avoidance. Crucially also it is an intergovernmental forum that gives a voice of the consumer as new regulations are developed.  

“This year’s Individual Achievement Award goes to Ralph Nader whose book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’ sparked a revolution in vehicle safety just over fifty years ago. His championing of consumer rights and safety lead to the formation of the National Highway Safety Administration and the adoption of standards that have avoided millions of deaths and serious injuries across the United States.”

“This year’s Innovation award goes to Thatcham Research for their work developing test and evaluation procedures for Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). Rather than surviving a crash it is better not to have one at all. AEB helps to do this and Thatcham has played a leading role in testing the effectiveness of the system. This vital effort is key to building consumer demand for advanced crash avoidance technologies that can deliver significant reductions in death and serious injuries on the world’s roads.”

CONSUMER CHAMPION: The World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations in recognition of their role promoting global regulations for vehicle safety in the interests of consumer protection.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is the custodian of UN vehicle safety standards and host of the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29). This unique intergovernmental platform of vehicle safety cooperation includes civil society participation giving a voice to independent consumer representatives in its decision-making. WP 29 is responsible for the most important passenger car regulations such as: seat belt anchorages (Reg. 14), safety belts & restraints (Reg. 16), frontal collision Reg. 94, lateral collision Reg. 95, electronic stability control Reg. 13H (GTR 8), pedestrian protection Reg. 127 (GTR 9), and child restraints Reg. 44/129.

The challenge now is to extend this success globally by encouraging more UN Member States to apply these norms and regulations as recommended by the Global Plan for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) and the UN General Assembly in a resolution (A/Res/72/260) adopted on 15 April this year which calls on “Member States that have not already done so to consider adopting policies and measures to implement United Nations vehicle safety regulations or equivalent national standards to ensure that all new motor vehicles meet applicable minimum regulations for occupant and other road users’ protection, with seat belts, air bags and active safety systems fitted as standard”.

By amending existing regulations WP29 also responds to new developments and technology that will enhance vehicle safety. Recent example of this are changes to requirements for pedestrian protection and the new child restraint regulations that introduces the ‘i-size’ concept for child seats and increases the stringency of the impact test requirements in order to raise levels of child occupant protection.

The UNECE region, where the application of WP29 regulations is the highest, has the lowest fatality rate per hundred thousand in the world despite many decades of increases in vehicle kilometres driven. This successful performance is attributed to a wide range of factors, however, it is clear that the contribution being made by improved vehicle safety is significant and that WP29 provides a crucial global regulatory framework to promote consumer protection and road injury prevention.

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT: Ralph Nader for his contribution to automotive safety and consumer rights.

In 1965 Ralph Nader published ‘Unsafe at Any Speed – The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile’. The book exposed the failures of the US car industry to tackle crash worthiness of vehicles and, in particular, highlighted faulty rear suspension of the Chevrolet Corvair that had caused numerous crashes and related law suits. In the face of strong industry opposition, Nader’s book became a best seller and acted as a powerful catalyst for change in automotive safety in the United States and around the world. Established as a champion of consumer rights Nader went on to found a wide variety of organizations, promoting corporate and government accountability including Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety.

In response to ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’ the Administration of President Lyndon Johnson in September 1966 passed the National Highway Traffic Safety Act which led to the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency was mandated to set minimum, uniform safety performance standards for all motor vehicles, and to require automakers to notify owners and recall cars containing safety-related defects. NHTSA also subsequently went on to launch the world’s first new car assessment programme in 1978 on the initiative of Joan Claybrook (who won Global NCAP’s Individual Achievement Award in 2012).

A study by the Center for Auto Safety has estimated that the 1966 federal laws, federal agency and general measures they created have avoided 3.5 million auto deaths over the past 50 years. In July this year Ralph Nader was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Given the hostility he attracted from the automotive industry this recognition is powerful testimony to his huge contribution to the dramatic improvements in motor vehicle safety that have been achieved over the last fifty years.

INNOVATION: Thatcham Research in recognition of its major role in the development of evaluation methodologies for the effectiveness of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

Thatcham Research, is the UK Insurers’ vehicle research centre, and is playing a leading role promoting crash avoidance technologies especially autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Collaborating with international partners including the European New Car Assessment Programme and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Thatcham embarked on a research programme to understand real world crash evidence and define a test and rating procedure to guide AEB system design. The test procedures cover low speed city crashes, predominantly focussed on whiplash injuries, and higher speed inter-urban crashes with moving and braking target vehicles replicating more serious crashes. These tests were always designed with harmonisation in mind and have been adopted in both the UK and German insurance group rating systems and also within European and US safety consumer tests. Thatcham helped define the test configurations and vehicle target, integrating appropriate visual and radar attributes used for evaluating the systems.

Initial AEB applications from 2008 saw systems addressing low speed front-to-rear collisions avoiding up to 20km/h. More recent developments have seen the effective speed range of systems rising up to 60km/h. Recent enhancements have seen the test procedures expanding to include pedestrians and soon cyclist. Thatcham have tested over 120 vehicles so far for both the Insurance Group Rating system and also for the Euro NCAP star rating tests. A significant part of Thatcham’s work has been extolling the benefits of AEB to the media and fleets with regular TV and radio interviews on the subject to increase consumer awareness. Thatcham has partnered with several organisations in the Stop-The-Crash campaigning which has seen public demonstrations at key events.  The analysis of crash rates has shown a very positive real world effect on European crash rates with a 38% overall reduction in front into rear crashes.